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Another puzzle piece concerning the end of the Kurosawa-Mifune collaboration

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    Vili Maunula

    The new book All the Emperor’s Men: Akira Kurosawa’s Pearl Harbor has a couple of interesting passages which may add to our understanding of why Toshiro Mifune never worked with Kurosawa again after Red Beard.

    Tasogawa writes that after Kurosawa was fired from the Tora! Tora! Tora! production, he held a news conference on January 21, 1969, where he continued to insist that his choice of using non-professional actors (or “actors who are full-fledged members of society”, as Kurosawa chose to term it) had not been a mistake.

    This infuriated Toshiro Mifune, who was then among the foremost actors in Japan. At a party two days later in the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo to mark completion of Furin Kazan, a movie about a legendary feudal lord, Shingen Takeda, Mifune expressed his anger in a statement released to journalists. “Kurosawa gave most of the roles in Tora! Tora! Tora! to rank amateurs. This is tantamount to throwing down a challenge to all of Japan’s professional actors. His disregard of professional actors has left us with a huge problem. I will never act in Kurosawa’s film again. No other actor should do so either, if they take pride in their work.” (239)

    Mifune’s anger didn’t seem to last too long, however, as five months later he and other Kurosawa regulars were organising a party for Kurosawa, titled “Kurosawa, Make Movies Again”. Speaking at the party, Kurosawa repeated his view that casting non-professional actors had not been a mistake, and that their performances had in fact been “of a much greater quality than those who had worked for many years as professional actors. … The experiences and conditioning as members of society outweighed those of the actors and that which they had obtained over the course of their acting careers. I want professional actors and professional filmmakers to give this serious consideration.” After this, writes Tasogawa, the “party fell silent, apparently either impressed by Kurosawa’s words or offended by them”. (240)

    I can imagine that Kurosawa, who was experiencing one of the lowest points in his career and was well known for holding a grudge, would not have been at all pleased with Mifune’s statement in January, when the press was already kicking him on the head while he was still trying to pick himself up. On the other hand, being a part of the party organising in June may have been an attempt by Mifune to mend that rift, and hearing Kurosawa’s words there must have been like a slap on the face.

    This is of course just my own speculation, and I doubt that the end of the Kurosawa-Mifune collaboration was the result of any single thing. But when reading this passage I thought that it added a piece to the puzzle that we have so often wondered about.



    Mmmmmaybe, yes, adds some flavour to the unanswerable question of why Martin and Lewis broke up…

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