The director for the Ghost of Tsushima live-action film is aiming for an all-Japanese cast and Japanese dialogue, relying on English subtitles to make the movie more accessible for western audiences, and Sony seems to be on board with the filmmaker’s initiative.
Sony announced a live-action film adaption of Ghost of Tsushima back in March 2021, directed by Chad Stahelski of the John Wick series. Speaking to Collider, Stahelski explained why he took on the film. “Honestly, it’s probably the same things that would scare the s—t out of most people.”
“It’s a fantasy period piece. It’s done with reverence to Akira Kurosawa, who’s probably in the top five biggest influences of my life as far as film goes,” Stahelski explained, praising the famed Japanese filmmaker.
“It’s a chance to push technology and people in a story that’s timeless. It’s your typical mythological story of good versus evil, finding a man, watching him change the world or the world changes him. It’s all the Joseph Campbell stuff that you’d love in a story,” Stahelski praised. “You put that in with, obviously, so I’m told I have a bit of a Samurai fetish, which is probably true from Manga and anime and stuff.”
“So, I think if we did this right, it would be visually stunning. It’s character driven. It’s got an opportunity for great action, great looks. And honestly, we’d to try to do it, all in character. Meaning, it’s a Japanese thing about the Mongols invading Tsushima island,” Stahelski elaborated.
He then revealed this meant he wanted “A complete Japanese cast, in Japanese. Sony is so on board with backing us on that. I’ve been going to Japan since I was 16. I have a love of the country, love of the people, love of the language. To try to direct not only in my language, but someone else’s and culturally shift my mindset to bring apart that in a cool way that still entices a Western audience.”
Despite the success of foreign language shows such as Parasite and Squid Game, Collider highlighted and asked Stahelski about subtitled films and shows lack of box office success. “I thought about that a lot what you’re talking about,” Stahelski admitted, before seemingly going off topic.
“If you come into my offices in Manhattan Beach, I have an entire walls and hallways of frames from the best silent films of all time. Fatty Arbuckle to Buster Keaton, to Charlie Chaplin, to the Keystone cops. Look, I believe in that. I believe that’s why Jackie Chan was successful is you didn’t have to speak Cantonese or Mandarin to get him. You saw it on his face,” Stahelski elaborated.
The director insisted, “There’s a way to direct actors. There’s a way to do it. Where a look can mean a look which can mean a look, which mean there are a lot of ways to do it. So, part of the challenge, not to jump over your question, but look, I think there’s a way to do it.”
“And a way to direct the cast and a way to mellow dramatically enhance facial performance. So, if I turn the sound off,” he proposed, “I want you to know what the scene is about, in whatever language.”
Collider then inquired about the challenges Stahelski may face and how he hopes to keep the Sony’s trust in him. “No one is going to give me $200 million to do a technology-push movie without speaking English. I get it,” Stahelski confessed.
“So, I have to be clever and I have to figure out what’s fiduciarily responsible to the property, to the studio and still get what I want out of it and still make it something epic,” the director reflected. “Again, big challenge, man. And we’re entering two a time where I think that’s, I’m like you, man.”
“I’ll read subtitles all day. And I think America in general, or at least the Western audiences in general are getting more and more used to that because of the influence of Netflix and streamers and stuff, where we get so much more of a world content,” Stahelski hoped.
“Will they show up in the theaters for that? I’m banking on yes, if everything else is there. I think it could hurt me or hurt the property if you’re failing a little less in each, visually it’s not great, the action is okay, the story is not clear,” he warned. “Look, if I nail all the other bits, I think I can inspire you enough to get in the car and go to the theater.”
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