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SOAS historians advise latest Universal Pictures feature film

4 December 2013

SOAS Japan Research Centre historians Dr Christopher Gerteis and Dr Stephen Turnbull served as historical advisers for the production of Universal Pictures’ latest feature film starring Keanu Reeves, Sanada Hiroyuki and Shibasaki Kō.

The film 47 Ronin, directed by Carl Rinsch, is a fantasy re-interpretation of a series of events that took place during Japan’s 18th century Edo Period. The story, often represented in Japanese literature, film and theatre, focuses on a group of masterless samurai, known as ronin, seeking to avenge their master who was wrongfully put to death by a corrupt government official.

Dr Turnbull, Research Associate, consulted on the historical plausibility without exaggerating the esoteric aspects of Japanese religious practices. He advised screenwriters Chris Morgan and Hossein Amini on Reeves’s multi-racial Japanese character and the film’s use of magical practices.

Dr Gerteis, Senior Lecturer in the History of Contemporary Japan, worked ‘behind the camera’ with director Carl Rinsch and his production staff to interpret the scripted cultural practices and historically significant events. He helped to render Rinsch’s re-imagination of the classic Japanese tale into cinematic reality by writing memos on topics ranging from head-taking to sword handling. The scholar said: “I even met with a dog wrangler to discuss the significant social status of dogs in 18th century Japan”.

47 Ronin is directed by Carl Rinsch (The Gift), 47 Ronin is produced by Scott Stuber (Ted, Identity Thief), Pamela Abdy (Identity Thief, upcoming Endless Love) and Eric McLeod (Mr & Mrs Smith, Austin Powers series). It will be released on 26 December in UK cinemas. View the trailer.