Sept 2016 Driving to Albuquerque, NM, after the Telluride Film Fesitval
February 9, 2017
Teruyo Nogami was Kurosawa's script supervisor for 43 years, from RASHOMON in 1950 to his last film, MADADAYO, in 1993. We filmed her for MIFUNE; THE LAST SAMURAI in September 2014 at the Edo-Tokyo Open-Air Architectural Museum on the outskirts of Tokyo. The first time I met her, I was intimidated. She's a no-nonsense person and a walking history of Japanese film. But after interviewing her and getting to know her through from her image and voice in the edit room, I was anxious to see her again.
When we met again at the Mifune Productions office in Setagaya-ku, 90 year-old Nogami-san was as sharp and feisty as ever. I was relieved that she liked my film. I reread her wonderful autobiography, WAITING FOR THE WEATHER, and asked her about her relationships with the great silent-era film director Mansaku Itami and his son, Yuzo Itami (the director of TAMPOPO), whom she used to babysit. When we parted she said, "Be careful not to slip in the shower!" Good advice..
May 6, 2016
We interviewed Steven Spielberg at the Amblin Entertainment offices on the Universal Studios Lot. He's a serious Mifune fan and immediately said "yes" to the interview if he could work it into his schedule, which took awhile. When we finally set it up during the post-production for THE BFG, he was gracious and knowledgeable.
He directed Mifune in his 1979 comedy 1942 and noted that Mifune and British actor Christopher Lee (Saruman in THE LORD OF THE RINGS Trilogy) bonded during the making of the film.
During the making of MIFUNE: THE LAST SAMURAI, Mifune's grandson, Rikiya Mifune, became an indispensable member of the production team, asssisting with research and interpreting tasks. He's easy and comfortable with people, so I asked him to conduct several of the interviews, including Spielberg's.
December 15, 2014
The dashing Yosuke Natsuki (with me and Rikiya Mifune on a cold day in Tokyo) is one of Japanese cinema's legends. He had a small part in YOJIMBO as the disgruntled son in the film's first scene, then starred in hundreds of Toho movies and tv shows, including CHUSHINGURA (1962), GHIDORAH, THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1964), SHOGUN (1980) and THE RETURN OF GODZILLA (1984).
He talked about working with Kurosawa for the first time, how the famously demanding director made him rehearse the same scene thirty-five times, but still wasn't satisfied and sent the cast and crew home for the day. Deflated and confused, he was leaving the set when Mifune came up behind him and said: "Remember the name of this film, Yo-shim-bo, which means 'Patience required.' All you can do is be patient and do your best." The next day, he says he got the scene in one take, doing it exactly as he did it the day before.
2016 Sneak Preview in Tokyo for the producers and cast of MIFUNE: THE LAST SAMURAISeated, l to r: Teruyo Nogami and Kyoko Kagawa. Standing, l to r: Kensuke Zushi (producer), Toichiro Shiraishi (producer), Shiro Mifune, RikIya Mifune, Akemi Mifune, Taro Goto (producer). An incredible group of people who made the impossible happen.