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English Remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru Planned


Just as the new Ikiru musical has premiered in Tokyo, news are coming in that English producer Stephen Woolley is developing a new adaptation of Kurosawa’s film for the big screen.

The UK based Woolley mentions these plans in a new book about the influential Scala Cinema in London, as well as in an associated Guardian piece where he writes: “In my career as a film producer, I still get inspiration from the Scala‚Äôs programming. For instance, in the first all-nighter of June 1979, we showed Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952). Nearly 40 years on from that Scala screening, I’m reading a screenplay for a version I commissioned that will be set in 1950s London, and which I hope to shoot next year.”

So, could we be looking at a 2019-2020 Ikiru, although no doubt with a different title? Who would you have play the lead?

Woolley’s previous production credits include The Crying Game (1992), Interview with the Vampire (1994), Little Voice (1998), The End of the Affair (1999), and more recently Carol (2015) and Colette (2018).





Woolley has a great track record, so its pretty good news. But I find setting it in 1950’s London to be an odd decision – I would have assumed that a contemporary version would make more sense.

My first thought as a lead is Stephen Rea (who was in Wooleys The Crying Game). Rea has a long history of playing put upon middle aged failures very well. But I guess he’s not a big enough name. Gabriel Byrne is another good actor who seems to have ‘matured’ into playing losers very well (kind of odd as he started out as a conventional hunk). I could see him being very good in the role.

I assume though that for such a relatively uncommercial film, they’d want a bigger star. Once upon a time Kevin Spacey would be nailed on for that role, but I guess thats not likely now….

Its probably too obvious, but Bryan Cranston would do an excellent job. And he even starred in Godzilla, just like Shimura Takeshi….


Vili Maunula

I could definitely see Rea and possibly Byrne in the lead role. Personally, I consider Tom Hanks as kind of the Hollywood version of Takashi Shimura, so if we need a major box office magnet, I would cast Tom, regardless of accent. I could also see Geoffrey Rush in the role.

In a way, it’s interesting that they are planning to set the film in practically the same time frame as the original, just in a different country. And of course, as a period film, rather than the original, which was contemporary at the time of making.



Most of the remakes I have seen are are bad, and few are as good as the original but if it’s well done it could work. I think the idea of setting the movie in 1950s London makes sense because London was bombed during WWII, especially working class areas and there were great disparities between rich and poor. Cancer was generally untreatable then, and people who were diagnosed were often lied to, not just in Japan but in many countries. Nowadays the doctor would likely recommend treatment or hospice.

I know he retired from the movies but perhaps Daniel Day Lewis could be persuaded to return.

Looking forward to what develops.



I would guess that the decision to set it in the 1950’s means they intend a reasonably direct remake, rather than a contemporary story ‘influenced by’ Ikiru. In a way I think this is a pity because I’d love to see an imaginative scriptwriter/directors take on what the modern equivalent would be of the bureaucrats dusty office and life (I keep thinking of the anthropologist David Graebers theory of ‘bullshit jobs’). Maybe running the phone helpdesk for Facebook.

Vili, I hadn’t thought of Tom Hanks for some reason, but no doubt he’d be the go-to guy if they could get him, probably the only actor who could make a film like this big box office. Although for me he’s a bit too ‘lovable’ – I think the character needs someone with a colder edge, someone a little less immediately likeable. So yes, Geoffrey Rush, although he has his own Spacey-like career problems I believe.



It seems the remake has been filmed and is now in post-production – with Bill Nighy (a great choice I think) in the lead role. And the screenplay is by Kazuo Ishiguru, which certainly looks promising.

As it credits Kurosawa as scriptwriter, it looks like it will be quite a ‘straight’ remake, set in London in the 1950’s.

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