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Toshiro Mifune, the legendary actor and star of numerous Akira Kurosawa films including Seven Samurai, Yojimbo and Rashomon, turned down the roles of Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader, worried that Star Wars was going to look cheap, according to his daughter Mika.
Mifune junior related the story at an event in Tokyo on Friday with Steve Wozniak to announce the first Tokyo Comic Con.
“I heard from my father that he was offered the role of Obi Wan Kenobi, but he was concerned about how the film would look and that it would cheapen the image of samurai, on which George Lucas had based a lot of the character and fighting style,” said Mifune.
Lucas has made no secret of the influence of Japanese cinema, and Kurosawa in particular, on his filmmaking, and was very keen to have Mifune a part of Star Wars, according to his daughter.
The story of the original Star Wars film was partly based on Kurosawa’s 1958 classic The Hidden Fortress, which starred Mifune.
“At the time, sci-fi movies still looked quite cheap as the effects were not advanced and he had a lot of samurai pride. So then, there was talk about him taking the Darth Vader role as his face would be covered, but in the end he turned that down too,” recalled Mifune.
“If it was today, it could have solved all his worries with special effects and technology,” chimed in Wozniak.
Ian McDiarmid, who played Emperor Palpatine in the Star Wars series, and Ray Park who played Darth Maul, joined the group on stage and talked about their respect for Mifune senior and other elements of Japanese cinema and culture.
The event was ostensibly to unveil Tokyo Comic Con, scheduled for December 2016, but no details were announced. Instead Wozniak talked about technology, Japan and his vision for Tokyo Comic Con.
“I’ve never really liked traveling, but I would come to Japan a couple of times a year, to visit Tokyo, Osaka, ride the bullet train, and to check out the technology that was changing the world,” said Wozniak.
“To my mind, the technology centers of the world are Silicon Valley and Tokyo, yes Korea is coming on behind, but that’s why I wanted to bring Comic Con to Japan,” added Wozniak.
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