©

Akira Kurosawa and Francis Ford Coppola for Suntory Whisky.

In 1971, [Kurosawa] accepted a Soviet offer to direct Dersu Uzala in the Siberian tundra and the shooting that took three years left him exhausted. The film was a modest success in Japan, but work offers weren’t forthcoming even after the picture won an Oscar. Without other means of support, Kurosawa was forced to do whisky commercials (for Suntory). One day, when Francis Coppola was working on Apocalypse Now, he received a phone call from Tokyo. Kurosawa asked if he would be willing to make a commercial in which the two of them sipped whisky. “I don’t drink,” replied Coppola, “but if it would help you, I’ll do it.” Kurosawa’s fee was $30,000 but, more importantly, his two greatest admirers in the U.S.—Coppola and George Lucas—became aware of his plight. They proceeded to convince Alan Ladd Jr., then still at Fox, to participate in financing Kurosawa’s new project, Kagemusha

[ The Warrior Returns | Film Comment — 1980 ]

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