FX is gearing up for what will be its largest production to date: an adaptation of James Clavell’s “Shōgun”, the epic best-selling novel which followed John Blackthorne, an 17th century Englishman who wound up shipwrecked in Japan and became involved in a dangerous struggle for power. John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks and FX Productions, announced the project during the Television Critics Association press-tour, saying that “The story of Shōgun has captivated audiences since James Clavell first released his epic novel more than 40 years ago. The themes of an outsider encountering a new culture are as relevant today.“
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Tim Van Patten (Game of Thrones) will direct multiple episodes of the Shōgun limited-series which will be written by Eugene Kelly (Westworld) and Ronan Bennett (PUBLIC ENEMIES). At the moment there’s no indication when the series will air, but it will consist of ten-episodes. Shōgun will chronicle “the collision of two ambitious men from different worlds and a mysterious female samurai: John Blackthorne, a risk-taking English sailor who ends up shipwrecked in Japan, a land whose unfamiliar culture will ultimately redefine him; Lord Toranaga, a shrewd, powerful daimyo, at odds with his own dangerous, political rivals; and Lady Mariko, a woman with invaluable skills but dishonorable family ties, who must prove her value and allegiance.” The James Clavell novel was previously adapted into a critically acclaimed 1980 mini-series which starred Richard Chamberlain,Toshiro Mifune, and Yoko Shimada, but John Landgraf made sure to point out that this new adaptation will be quite different from that version which primarily focused on the perspective of Chamberlin’s character.
It’s really told from multiple points of view, not just the singular western white male point of view. It’s told from many Japanese points of view. I’m learning and understanding things about feudal Japanese culture and religion that I never knew before. We’re casting wonderful Japanese actors. If you exotics or fetishize Japanese cultures through the male gaze [that would be a problem], but I believe there’s an opportunity to tell the story of two cultures in a way that wasn’t done before.
I can recall watching Shōgun at some point during high-school and quite enjoying it, in fact, I’ve always meant to pick up the series on Blu-ray in order to check it out again. Perhaps I’ll finally do that before FX launches their new take on Shōgun.
A synopsis of “Shōgun” via Amazon:
Here is the world-famous novel of Japan that is the earliest book in James Clavell’s masterly Asian saga. Set in the year 1600, it tells the story of a bold English pilot whose ship was blown ashore in Japan, where he encountered two people who were to change his life: a warlord with his own quest for power, and a beautiful interpreter torn between two ways of life and two ways of love.
The principal figures are John Blackthorne, whose dream it is to be the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe, to wrest control of the trade between Japan and China from Portuguese, and to return home a man of wealth and position; Toranaga, the most powerful feudal lord in Japan, who strives and schemes to seize ultimate power by becoming Shogun—the Supreme Military Dictator—and to unite the warring samurai fiefdoms under his own masterly and farsighted leadership; and the Lady Mariko, a Catholic convert whose conflicting loyalties to the Church and her country are compounded when she falls in love with Blackthorne, the barbarian intruder.
In dramatizing how a Westerner, the representative man of his time, comes to be altered by his exposure to an alien culture, Mr. Clavell provides a spellbinding depiction of a nation seething with violence and intrigue as it moves from the medieval world to the modern.
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