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Ken Watanabe to star as Cao Cao

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  • Ken Watanabe to star as Cao Cao

    http://www.monkeypeaches.com/battleofredcliff.html

    John Woo's new project is the Battle of Red Cliffs. One of the most famous and most important naval battles (wait, does the Yangtze River count as a naval battle? I guess it's big enough...) in Chinese history, and immortalised as the centrepiece of "Romance of the Three Kingdoms". Looks like it's going to be big with a budget so far of $50 million and might be increasing. Not up to scratch with the biggest blockbusters but massive for a Chinese movie. Hero had a budget of $30 million. It will NOT, I repeat NOT be a martial arts film.

    The cast:

    Liu Bei - Chow Yun-Fat
    Zhuge Liang - Tony Leong
    Zhou Yu - Jet Li
    Cao Cao - Ken Watanabe

    I am very excited about it. One of my favourite battles of all time from one of my favourite books of all time and periods of history made into a big budget movie with some of my favourite actors in the leading roles. I can't help myself *Fangirl squeal*. I love Tony Leong and have great faith that he will be able to play Zhuge Liang (one of my heroes) well. If not he will earn the enmity of everyone Chinese!!!!!!! (Zhuge Liang is by far the favourite character in Three Kingdoms)

    Typically enough though, the sole Japanese actor will play the "villain". However, John Woo says he is going to change the scripts from the typical "Romance" ones where Cao Cao was ambitious and treacherous, Liu Bei was kind but weak-willed, Zhuge Liang was the all knowing wise intelligent trickster and Zhou Yu was smart but consumed with jealousy ("Oh Heaven! If you made Zhou Yu, why did you have to make a Zhuge Liang too?"). Which is a good thing as then it will be more historically accurate...Also Cao Cao has been going through a lot of historical rehabilitation recently. For example in the mainland TV series, Cao Cao was very popular amongst the audience. So I expect Cao Cao's role to be more like the First Emperor in Hero rather than the evil evil "I would rather betray the world than have the world betray me" guy. Still, I do think it's pretty typical that they cast the only Japanese actor in the "antagonist" role...What's Ken Watanabe like anyway? Is he a good actor? Cao Cao will be a difficult role to play especially the "modern reformed" Cao Cao. He will have to be an ambitious hegemon who is known for doing some pretty nasty things but also someone who is very smart and genuinely concerned for the welfare of the people and doing what he believes is right (unifying China).

    I expect that like with the TV series they'll probably "borrow" the Chinese army for the battle scenes again

    Anyway, how popular is Three Kingdoms in Japan anyway? I thought that 3 Kingdoms was well known but no-one seems to know anything about it when I ask them...

    Anyway, I'm off to do more fangirlish squealing.

  • #2
    Thunder,

    interesting. I wonder if there'll be as much comment about Watanabe playing a Chinaman as when the Chinese actresses played Geisha?

    Comment


    • #3
      I don't really know. I haven't seen much negative comment yet, at least on the Chinese side. Another Japanese involvement - Sony is footing a lot of the bill.

      Another thing about Cao Cao is he is supposed to be a genius - military strategy, politics, administration, poetry (yes, poetry). Eventually died of a brain tumour. Also very charismatic and earned the loyalty of many talented men. Also not beyond humbling himself to steal generals and advisors from his enemies who were mostly spoilt nobles. Actually Liu Bei, Sun Ce and Cao Cao, the three most successful warlords were all outsiders. There is a special place in my heart though for the teenage prodigy Sun Ce and his best friend Zhou Yu. Not many people can forge a kingdom for themselves at that age from nothing. I liked how he bartered the Emperor's Jade Seal his dad found to one of the spoiled nobles to raise his first army. Cao Cao's children were also talented. His third son is still considered one of the top poets in Chinese history. His heir Cao Pi was a good poet and historian too and it was his court that made contact with Himiko. However, he was also considered a tyrant. Like the time he buried all the enemy soldiers who surroundered alive. And slaughtering everyone in a district, men, women and children. He is most famous for the saying, "I would rather betray the world than have the world betray me" though there is a large amount of doubt as to whether he ever actually said that. He *did* rebuild a China shattered by decades of civil war, though he used some pretty harsh tactics on the peasantry to do so.

      Anyway, Cao Cao is a very interesting character, esp.if the script is going to be more on the historical Cao Cao than the Romance Cao Cao. I wonder if Ken Watanabe is capable of pulling him off. I suspect that if Ken Watanabe is playing Cao Cao, they'll be filming in English. Or does Ken Watanabe speak Chinese?

      Originally posted by J.T
      Thunder,

      interesting. I wonder if there'll be as much comment about Watanabe playing a Chinaman as when the Chinese actresses played Geisha?

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Thunder
        The cast:

        Liu Bei - Chow Yun-Fat
        Zhuge Liang - Tony Leong
        Zhou Yu - Jet Li
        Cao Cao - Ken Watanabe
        Very interesting. The choice of Chow Yun-Fat as Liu Bei strikes me as a bit odd though - didn't Chow make his fame by playing cool gangsta bosses in Cantonese movies? That doesn't somehow fit the image of the weak-willed Liu Bei...

        Originally posted by Thunder
        Typically enough though, the sole Japanese actor will play the "villain".

        Which is a good thing as then it will be more historically accurate...Also Cao Cao has been going through a lot of historical rehabilitation recently.
        That is probably no coincidence, casting a Japanese in an antagonistic role. But in a sense, it would be quite flattering for the Japanese too - Cao Cao could be justifiably seen as a charismatic leader who was misunderstood by the dominant political ethicists of his day. But it all depends on perspectives...

        Although, deep in the back of my mind, I secretly feel all Chinese cast for the major roles may have been the way to go... Commerical reasons were probably behind the casting decision, much as it was the case for the geisha movie. It remains to be seen whether Ken Watanabe will succeed in capturing the "spirit" of the classical Chinese literature...

        Originally posted by Thunder
        Anyway, how popular is Three Kingdoms in Japan anyway? I thought that 3 Kingdoms was well known but no-one seems to know anything about it when I ask them...
        I know for a fact that there exist some dedicated Japanese aficianados of the classic Chinese novel. You would have to poke around to find them though, as many of these people are almost by definition more of Asia-phile than Anglo-philes...

        Comment

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