Director Takeshi Miike (Ichi the Killer, Audition) delivers “13 Assassins” (Magnolia Pictures), a bravado period action film set at the end of Japan’s feudal era in which a group of unemployed samurai are enlisted to bring down a sadistic lord and prevent him from ascending to the throne and plunging the country into a wartorn future.
This remake of Eichi Kudo’s 1963 black-and-white movie of the same name, Jûsan-nin no shikaku, will open at the Landmark’s Lagoon Theater in uptown Minneapolis starting June 3, 2011.
Miike states that the important thing about remaking a classic movie is how much you respect the original. He is not so much concerned about putting his own mark on the remake – as long as he respects the original film. He said the intent is not to impose his personality but to set aside his ego and just enjoy making the film.
“I may be chasing a dream that I might never accomplish. I find creative freedom through low budget projects,” states Miike in the production notes. “I seek out even more freedom through the experiences of making films like 13 ASSASSINS. And I think it’s about time to go wild once again!”
There is no hard historical proof to back up the legendary battle that is depicted in 13 Assassins, however, Miike said he believes that the samurai did not fear risking their lives, and fought against enemies regardless of their numbers.
“The pleasure of making a Jidaigeki (samurai period drama) film is that the characters can achieve in only one night what would otherwise take 100 days in a contemporary story,” he sad. “I always seek universal themes when making a Jidaigeki film. Love beget Revenge and Justice beget Violence.”
There is plenty of action and Miike said the blood and violence in a film can only be decided by inevitability. He adds that the scene-by scene fight choreography is also a kind of love.
“Sword-fighting scenes are about love,” states Miike. “Without brotherly love, we could not shoot such violent sword-fighting scenes.”
He likes to keep the CGI in check by determining that what is being created will enhance the film and is something that could happen in reality and just look better in CGI.
Koji Yakusho stars as Shinzaemon Shimada. Yakusho is recognized as one of Japan’s finest actors after his many acclaimed performances in domestic as well as international productions, such as Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “Babel”, Rob Marshall’s “Memoirs of a Geisha” and Francois Girard’s “Silk.”
Principal photography for 13 Assassins was accomplished in summer 2009 on a large open-air set in Tsuruoka in the Yamagata Prefecture in northern Japan.
“I love the food of Yamagata, where the shooting took place. Eating simply is always best,” states Miike. “The location was not practical, but it was well-matched with the scenery. I loved the outdoor set which we found and re-created.”
He works again with composer Koji Endo, a relationship that spans a decade and several film projects.
“He’s a genius when it comes to hearing what the film needs,” said Miike.
Takashi Miike has become synonymous with the promise of a unique onscreen experience, regardless of the genre. Highly prolific, Miike is credited with over 80 films since making his directorial debut in the early 1990s.
Although his films are often associated with black humor, inventive violence and audacious style, Miike has shown his versatility in other genres such as children’s films, sensitive dramas, period pieces and even a horror musical (The Happiness of the Katakuris.)
Born in 1960 near Osaka, Miike harbored a passion for motorbike racing and a disdain for academics growing up. He attended the Yokohama Vocational School of Broadcast and Film and then worked for nearly a decade in television.
Miike became an assistant director in film to directors like Shohei Imamura and Hideo Onchi, and Japan’s “V-Cinema” (direct to video) boom of the early 90s helped his break into directing his own films. For years, he alternated between V-Cinema and higher-budget productions.
In 2005, Miike directed “Demon Pond,” a Kabuki-style play. Miike has also occasionally appeared as an actor in his films as well as others’, notably Eli Roth’s Hostel.