There have been many occasion’s where a film director has been replaced on a project because it has spiraled out of control. From Richard Donner’s firing on Superman II to Anthony Mann’s Spartacus, which eventually was handed over Stanley Kubrick, there have been plenty of times in film history where filmmakers and producers have clashed that eventually led to their dismissal from a project. One of these instances happened to one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Akira Kurosawa. In this day and age, it’s extremely hard to believe that the man responsible for creating Seven Samurai, High and Low and Rashomon would be fired from a project, but that’s exactly what happened with his dealings with 20th Century Fox and their attempt to make a film about Pearl Harbor, Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970). In Hiroshi Tasogawa’s All of the Emperor’s Men: Kurosawa’s Pearl Harbor, the entire scenario of what happened behind the scenes with Kurosawa and Fox and the making of the film, in impeccable detail. Tasogawa utilizes unused storyboards, drafts of the script, various interviews and all sorts of other documents that enable him to tell a gripping story of a film, that ultimately never came to be.
From the very beginning of the book, in the wonderful forward by Elmo Williams and Tasogawa’s prologue, it is shown that All of the Emperor’s Men is attempting to provide a faithful text of factual information during the initial planning stages of Tora! Tora! Tora!. The notion of the communication breakdown between a company that wanted a repeat of their success from The Longest Day and Kurosawa, that wanted a war film that showed the personal journey of the Commander Yamamoto. The Commander-in-Chief was responsible for orchestrating the plan of attack on Pearl Harbor. Kurosawa wished to highlight the fall of this man, in order to illustrate the tragedy that is war, but ultimately never received the proper chance to. The final line of Tasogawa’s prologue serves as a perfect example and encapsulates the entirety of the undertaking that he’s placed on himself, the opportunity to tell the story of what could have been Kurosawa’s story of Pearl Harbor, by utilizing both the Japanese and American perspectives and does an incredible job at doing so.
While the book certainly has a voice, it really show’s that Tasogawa’s primary focus is presenting all of the evidence to see what went wrong. Not necessarily who was in the wrong for this version of Tora! Tora! Tora!, for everybody had some sort of wrongdoing. While it certainly is a fine example of the expression of “Too Many Cook’s in the Kitchen”, there are plenty of other circumstances that created problems for the production. The research and detail in this book are absolutely meticulous and show Tasogawa’s dedication to present the Kurosawa’s vision of this film, 40 years later.
All of the Emperor’s Men is one of the best books on Kurosawa I’ve ever read and Tasogawa does an exceptional job at doing trying to service the filmmaker’s vision of something that will never be. While Tora! Tora! Tora! certainly exists, it isn’t the one that I’ve read about in this book. This book shall certainly be looked at highly by film scholars and historians, but it should certainly be read as a cautionary tale for any filmmaker’s and all of the problems that could arise at mismanagement and poor communication. Highly Recommended!
All of the Emperor’s Men: Kurosawa’s Pearl Harbor will be available on November 1st, 2012 in Hardcover.
Photo Credit:Photo of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa in Cannes France, May 13, 1980 for the presentation of Japan’s entry “Kagemusha”. (AP Photo/Levy)