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Akira Kurosawa and a 1955 alternate history

Someone at the soc.history.what-if newsgroup by the name of Sydney Webb has posted a “what if” scenario on Kurosawa in 1955, the point (if any) of which I don’t quite comprehend to be honest. However, in case you might, take a look here (first part, posted in 2002) and here (second part, posted a couple of days ago).

Like I said, I don’t quite see what is going on in there, and I’m also not entirely sure if I am allowed to criticise the pieces for some of their factual inaccuracies, considering that it is some sort of alternate history that we are talking about there.

If I were to choose a point in Kurosawa’s career that I would like to use to explore a divergent alternate history from, that would probably be spring and summer 1966, or project Runaway Train. For those not familiar with this part of Akira Kurosawa’s history Runaway Train was supposed to become the director’s first Hollywood movie, his most expensive and first non-Japanese film, as well as the first movie that he would shoot in colour. Clearly, it might very well have been a very decisive turn in the director’s career.

It didn’t, of course, happen that way. For the reasons of script problems, weather problems, and apparently some problems with communication between Japan and Hollywood, the project collapsed. (Only to be resurrected years later by Hollywood — see the Other Movies with Kurosawa’s Involvement section).

While I don’t particularly wish that matters would have gone otherwise, the question how Kurosawa’s later career would have differed has always intrigued me. Would Hollywood have changed him? Would he have changed Hollywood? Or would it have been the first and the last time the two worlds would have come together, marred by problems that Kurosawa faced when he was a part of the Tora! Tora! Tora! project? (A few years after Runaway Train, Kurosawa was contracted to film the Japanese parts of the war movie, but ended up resigning or being fired, depending on whose version of the story you believe.)

What do you think? What sort of a turn would Kurosawa’s career have taken had Runaway Train got made?

And are there other “what if” points in the director’s career that tend to cause you sleepless nights?




Jeremy Quintanilla

A Kurosawa film in 1966 America?, may guess it would make little impact on Hollywood and likely give Kurosawa a bad taste and history would change little.

A big American Kurosawa film in the mid 70’s on the other hand could have a huge impact on Hollywood and possibly shifted Kurosawa attention into American cinema. The neat thing is it would take but a few changes to get Kurosawa to make a American film instead of a Russian.
To me the 1970s was America’s prime time in movies, and when the general public had great desire to see movies that broke away from conventional 50-60s Hollywood cookie cutter movies. Its was also the time that many big American directors made there greatest works, bringing stardom along and larger production money along with it, Kurosawa could of easily made his way like many others.

I would think however that American fame and money would negatively effect epic masterpieces like Kugemusha and Ran from ever being made or suffer drastic changes.

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