Samurai, Seppuku and…. Keanu Reeves?

What in tarnation do they have in common, you might ask? A movie Universal Pictures is putting out called 47 Ronin which will be penned by Chris Morgan (Wanted). This film is a historical fantasy set in feudal Japan which is said to have a projected release date of November 21, 2012. Accroding to IMDB, Keanu Reeves will be playing a character named “Hiro.” (Note: cast information has been updated.  Please click HERE).

You might have heard about the 47 Ronin before.  I beleive DeNiro mentions it in his movie Ronin. Anyway, the legend of the 47 Ronin (otherwise known as “Chushingura”) goes a little like this. Back in 1700’s in Japan, the government was made up of a shogun, which was like the emperor, and then under the shogun were regional rulers called Daimyo. Each daimyo had a number of samurai in their employ who were totally loyal to them, as goes the code of the bushido. Before the 47 Ronin became ronin, they were loyal samurai to a young Daimyo named Asano Naganori.

asano Samurai, Seppuku and.... Keanu Reeves?

Asano was hanging out at the Edo castle, going through some sort of young Daimyo training classes where he was being taught court etiquette by a master of ceremony named Kira Yoshinaka. As the legend goes, this guy Kira supposedly harassed Asano so much that one day he couldn’t take it anymore and drew his wakizashi in the castle. (The wakizashi is that smaller sword you usually see samurai wearing with the katana, more like a long knife). This was forbidden, of course, and the punishment was none other than seppuku, which Asano had to commit forthwith. Kira, on the other hand, was only slightly injured on his face before guards broke it up.

So now Asano’s samurai are ronin because they no longer have a master and 47 of the original 371 vow revenge. They range in ages from 16 to 65. I’m not sure who Keanu’s playing because none of those dudes are named Hiro. I imagine they decided to use that name because it sounds like “Hero” but that’s pretty cheesy.

I would think that they would want Keanu to play the head ronin, Oishi (which, by the way, means “delicious”). This guy plotted an entire revenge scheme which took 2 years to carry out. He was around 35 at the time and went as far as leaving his wife and children and pretending to be a drunken bum with a geisha girlfriend so no one would catch on to his plan. He was never seen talking to the others.  They used spies and messengers (and probably ninja or became ninja themselves but no one’s copping to that part of it).  Illustrations always show them as wearing these black and white jackets, sort of like their gang colors or something.

chushingura ukiyo e2 Samurai, Seppuku and.... Keanu Reeves?

So when the moment was right, the 47 ronin attacked Kira’s pad (but not without banging their battle drum first). Once they were sure they had the right guy, Oishi came in, bowed before Kira and offered to let him commit seppuku like a real man with the same wakizashi that Asano had used on himself. Kira begged for his life instead, even offered money, so Oishi had to do it for him. They brought his head back to Asano’s grave and paid the monks at the temple to bury their bodies after they turned themselves in. Because you see, there was a law back then against unauthorized revenge so the 47 ronin had to commit seppuku as well. They are all buried at the temple with their master and now the place is a tourist attraction.

 Samurai, Seppuku and.... Keanu Reeves?

There have been loads of productions made over the years about these guys, kabuki plays, movies, etc. This will probably be the first American one. Did I mention this movie will be shot in 3-D? They’re saying it’s going to be epic like 300 and highly visual like Lord of the Rings. Right now Reeves is in London training for the film which should start shooting in March.  I will definitely be looking forward to seeing this one!

[Sources: 47 Ronins, Collider, Keanu Reeves – Celebfan]

pixel Samurai, Seppuku and.... Keanu Reeves?

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