Kitano Takeshi, the 74-year-old icon of Japanese gangster films and TV comedy, has set “Kubi” (Neck) as his next film — and possibly the last movie that he will direct.
The film is a period actioner based on Kitano’s 2019 novel of the same title, published by Kadokawa, according to local magazine Josei Jishin, which reported the news as an unconfirmed exclusive. Contacted by Variety, Kitano’s agency had no comment. However, the story is being widely disseminated by Japanese media.
Shooting is supposed to start in May with Ken Watanabe reportedly signed to star. Kitano will be working with a new staff minus the participation of long-time producer Mori Masayuki .
Kitano’s most recent film as director is the 2017 “Outrage Coda,” which finished with $15 million in Japan. His biggest career hit, however, was “Zatoichi,” Kitano’s take on the iconic period action series about a blind swordsman that earned $27 million in 2003. One inspiration for “Kubi” is the 1954 Akira Kurosawa classic “Seven Samurai,” a film Kitano greatly admires.
The novel “Kubi” is one of many fictional treatments of the real-life Honno-ji Incident, in which famed warlord Oda Nobunaga was assassinated at a temple in Kyoto in 1582. The characters are mainly real historical figures, including Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the Nobunaga retainer who avenges his dead lord in battle, and Sorori Shinzaemon, a Hideyoshi attendant noted for his wit.
In Kitano’s novel, which starts prior to the assassination, Shinzaemon captures Araki Murashige, a Nobunaga general accused of disloyalty. The plot revolves around the fate of Murashige, whose neck Nobunaga aims to sever.
In 2018, Kitano stepped down from the Office Kitano production and talent management firm that he and Mori co-founded in 1992. At the time, Mori said that Kitano wanted to “lay down the burdens he has been carrying … and increase his personal time.” A Netflix biopic about Kitano is also in the works.