Friday, February 20, 2009


The great filmmaker Akira Kurosawa had an onset nickname: cast and crew called him Tenno, The Emperor. One close friend described Kurosawa as "a demon of strength" when directing his magnificent films, which included The Seven Samurai, Rashomon and Yojimbo. His personality was so imposing that actors would endure the most incredible hardships to please him. This might vary from painless but disgusting tasks like wearing the same stinking rags for months, both onset and off, since he believed that actors should stay in character; to being nearly drowned, since he liked torrential rain in his films, and plenty of it. In the final scene of Throne of Blood, actor Toshiro Mifune was nearly skewered by the hundreds of real arrows that were shot at him by expert archers. In The Seven Samurai actors attacked each other with real swords, knives, pikes, and cudgels in hip-high mud while being deluged by The Emperor's favorite Biblical-strength rain.
Apparently actors seldom so much as said "Boo" to Kurosawa about his methods. He was just too big, too powerful for them to question.

Because of incidents like these, Kurosawa's scriptwriter friend Uekusa told him that obviously he had never known regret, desperation or defeat, the weaknesses that most people struggle with. Uekusa said that "Tenno" had been born strong and born lucky, and that his achievements had come easily to him. This is the way Kurosawa responded:

"I only wear the mask of a strong person...I am not trying to defend myself. But I feel this is an opportunity to make myself understood. I am not a special person. I am not especially strong. I am not especially gifted. But I hate to show weakness, and I hate to lose, so I am a person who tries hard. That is all there is to it."

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