The Japanese actor Ken Watanabe has become Japan's first crossover film star, moving from a busy of schedule of domestic releases to adding a watchful sense of commitment to Hollywood blockbusters such as Inception, Batman Begins and The Last Samurai (in which he eclipsed Tom Cruise without breaking a sweat or raising his voice). When Clint Eastwood made two films about the bloody World War II battle for the Pacific Ocean island of Iwo Jima, Flags of Our Fathers from the American perspective and Letters From Iwo Jima from the Japanese, Watanabe starred in the latter.
Now he's returning the compliment to Eastwood by starring in a Japanese remake of one of his most revered roles. Keeping the same title, Unforgiven will feature Watanabe as a samurai who takes a job as a bounty hunter in 1880s Japan as traditions break down and a modern age asserts itself. Eastwood's 1992 western is a telling commentary on the power of violence and history, and Watanabe will be directed in the remake by Sang-il Lee (Scrap Heaven, Villain).
Wally shoots for the sky
The ranks of cinematographers who become directors are thin and somewhat creaky. Barry Sonnenfeld went from being the Coen brothers' right hand man to directing various Addams Family and Men in Black movies, while Dutchman Jan de Bont shot Die Hard and Basic Instinct before steering the bus on Speed. The latest to attempt the switch is Wally Pfister, the American director of photography who has been at the side of Christopher Nolan through various Batman movies and other blockbusters right back to the fine 2002 independent release Memento. Pfister is not starting out with small steps – he's making a science-fiction tale called Transcendence and has already cast Johnny Depp, who hopefully is putting Captain Jack Sparrow behind him. To make the set more familiar Pfister is also looking to place Nolan's Batman, Christian Bale, in a lead role.
Big news in the comic book movie business, so-so everywhere else: Jamie Foxx, soon to be seen in Quentin Tarantino's slavery western Django Unchained, will play the villainous Electro opposite Andrew Garfield's superhero in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Teplitzky stays on track
Australian director Jonathan Teplitzky will follow last year's Burning Man with The Railway Man, an adaptation of Eric Lomax's memoir about his experiences as a British P.O.W. on the Burma Railway during World War II and his decision, years afterwards, to track down one of his Japanese captors who tortured him in an attempt to put the trauma of his youth behind him. The movie, which shot in Britain, Thailand and Queensland, will star Colin Firth (The King's Speech) as Lomax, with Nicole Kidman (To Die For) stepping in for Rachel Weisz as his supportive wife, while Jeremy Irvine (War Horse) will play the young soldier. The Japanese officer Lomax searches for will be played by Tanroh Ishida (the forthcoming Gambit remake), with the older version of the character portrayed by Hiroyuki Sanada (Ring).