Kagemusha (The Shadow Warrior) (movie) (影武者 (映画))

"Kagemusha" (The Shadow Warrior) is a 1980 Japanese film directed by Akira KUROSAWA. The film won the Grand Prix at the Cannes International Film Festival. Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, who adore Kurosawa, served as executive producers for its international version. Also, starting with Kagemusha, Ishiro HONDA, an old friend of Kurosawa since his assistant director days, joined forces as assistant producer (credited as the chief of production).

Out of all the Kurosawa films, this is the only spectacle film that deals with episodes invoking real samurai commanders in the Warring States period. Kurosawa also claims that he produced Kagemusha as a test-run for his next film "Ran" (chaos).

The story is a tragicomedy about a thief who lived as a body double (kagemusha) for Shingen TAKEDA, a samurai commander in the Warring States period. In order to conceal the fact that Shingen TAKEDA died in the attack on Noda-jo Castle (Mikawa Province) by Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, his younger brother Nobukado TAKEDA and others used him as Shingen's body double. The man, who was about to be executed for theft, was saved by Nobukado because he was the spitting image of Shingen. Although the man had initially attempted to run away, with just one look at Shingen he was overpowered by his majestic appearance and accepted his lot as a body double for Shingen. On the other hand, the wheel of fate began to spin in favour of the rising Nobunaga ODA, to the decline of the Takeda family.

Issues with cast and staff
Shintaro KATSU, who was originally going to play the lead character, had a conflict with Kurosawa and left the project shorty after filming began. The main cause of this was that Katsu tried to film his own performance with a video camera to rehearse for his role.
Seeing this, Kurosawa remarked, 'I don't need two directors.'
After Katsu left, Tatsuya NAKADAI, who had unofficially been chosen to play the lead character in "Ran," was hired for Katsu's role. Nakadai made the character of Kagemusha his own.
Katsu, who came to the premiere, commented, 'The movie was boring.'

According to Shingo YAMASHIRO, Katsu was originally supposed to play the roles of Shingen TAKEDA and his body double, and his older brother Tomisaburo WAKAYAMA was to play the role of Shingen's younger brother Nobukado TAKEDA (the opposite of their true ages). However, anticipating trouble between Katsu and Kurosawa, Wakayama declined the offer to avoid incident, thus this casting was not realized.

As Masaru SATO, who had produced the music for "Donzoko" (the Lower Depths, 1957) and "Akahige" (Red Beard), clashed with Kurosawa and left the movie, Shinichiro IKEBE was used in place of him at the recommendation of Toru TAKEMITSU. Ikebe, who had worked as Takemitsu's musical assistant, was also involved with "Dodesukaden" and worked on all of Kurasawa's films except "Ran" thereafter. Kurosawa was also in fierce conflict with Takemitsu, who had produced music for "Ran" and after the completion of the movie, he broke ties with Takemitsu.

In addition to the above, cinematographer Kazuo MIYAGAWA fell ill and was replaced.

Most performers were chosen by audition. Many unknown and new actors, plus amateurs with no acting experience, including Masayuki YUI, Daisuke RYU, Taikei SHIMIZU ('Noboru SHIMIZU' at the time), Kai ATO, Yu SHIMAKA, were cast in leading roles.

Current prominent figures, including Torata NAMBU of Dengeki Network, Toshiro YANAGIBA, Goro YAMADA (uncredited), appeared as extras, such as in the roles of common soldiers and the dead, when they were young and unknown. Although Shoji KOKAMI, a university student at the time, passed the audition, he was unable to take part in filming, and Junichi ISHIDA was unsuccessful at audition.

International version and domestic version
Some scenes from the domestic version were cut for the international version, because they were difficult for foreigners unfamiliar with Japanese history to understand (like the scene where Kenshin UESUGI hears the news of Shingen's death).
In addition, during a magazine interview with Nagaharu YODOGAWA (film critic), Kurosawa said, 'Editing of the domestic version was inadequate due to lack of time but we made as many further cuts as time allowed for the international version.'

Documentaries etc.

The "NHK feature/The World of Akira Kurosawa" broadcasted by Japan Broadcasting Corporation exposed behind-the-scenes secrets during the production of 'Kagemusha.'

The movie script and others are included in "Akira KUROSAWA complete works, The 6th volume" published by Iwanami Shoten.

[Original Japanese]