April 19, 2019
MGM Making ‘Yasuke’ Movie, About the Only African Samurai in History
Today in “shut up and take my money” news, MGM is set to make Yasuke, a film based on the true story of the only African samurai in history. Yasuke was perhaps the first black man to set foot in Japan, and his arrival caused an uproar and piqued the interest of a warlord named Oda Nobunaga. There’s no director or actor attached to the Yasuka movie yet, but this is the kind of original project that is bound to get a lot of attention.
Deadline broke the news about Yasuke, writing that Stuart C. Paul wrote the script for MGM and producers Lloyd Braun and Andrew Mittman. Here’s how Deadline describes the story:
A native of Portuguese Mozambique, Yasuke was taken captive and brought to 16th-century Japan as a slave to Jesuit missionaries. The first black man to set foot on Japanese soil, Yasuke’s arrival arouses the interest of Oda Nobunaga, a ruthless warlord seeking to unite the fractured country under his banner. The script focuses on the complex relationship between the two men as Yasuke earns Nobunaga’s friendship, respect — and ultimately, the honor, swords and title of samurai.
There’s also an upcoming book about this story – African Samurai: The True Story of Yasuke, a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan, due out on April 30, written by Thomas Lockley and Geoffrey Girard. Here’s the book’s synopsis:
When Yasuke arrived in Japan in the late 1500s, he had already traveled much of the known world. Kidnapped as a child, he had ended up a servant and bodyguard to the head of the Jesuits in Asia, with whom he traversed India and China learning multiple languages as he went. His arrival in Kyoto, however, literally caused a riot. Most Japanese people had never seen an African man before, and many of them saw him as the embodiment of the black-skinned (in local tradition) Buddha. Among those who were drawn to his presence was Lord Nobunaga, head of the most powerful clan in Japan, who made Yasuke a samurai in his court. Soon, he was learning the traditions of Japan’s martial arts and ascending the upper echelons of Japanese society.
With the right director and lead actor, this could end up being cool as hell while also introducing audiences to a story many of them were likely never aware of. I sure as hell know I had no knowledge of this true story until news of the movie broke.
Screenwriter Stuart C. Paul only has short films to his name at the moment, but he recently sold a script called Scorpion to STX, and Terminal Point to Universal. He’s also adapting the fantasy book series The Chronicles of Amber as a TV show. All this indicates he’s clearly a writer on the up-and-up, and worth paying attention to.
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