Duo gets behind 'Thirteen Assassins'

Toshiaki Nakazawa, Jeremy Thomas producing Miike film

CANNES -- A pair of Oscar-winning producers, Japan's Toshiaki Nakazawa and London-based Jeremy Thomas, have partnered on Takashi Miike's next film, "Thirteen Assassins."

Nakazawa and Thomas will help Miike carve out a samurai epic based on Eiichi Kudo's 1963 film of the same name.

The Japanese director is sharpening up plans to helm the shogun-era tale about 13 assassins, an evil lord and their secret mission to take him out. But unbeknownst to them, the assassins are outnumbered 10 to one by the lord's team of crack bodyguards. Swords, sandals and blood fly.

Thomas' sales and finance arm HanWay Films is handling international sales here in Cannes. Toho has prebought rights for a theatrical rollout in Japan. The slash fest will be produced through Nakasawa's banner Sedic International and Thomas' Recorded Picture Co.

Nakazawa picked up this year's foreign-language Academy Award for "Departures," and previously worked with Miike on "Sukiyaki Western Django" and "The Bird People in China."

British producer Thomas -- who produced nine-time Oscar winner "The Last Emperor" -- has a long history with Asian cinema, having made Nagisa Oshima's "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence" and brought Takeshi Kitano's "Brother" to the international marketplace.

Shooting is set to start in July in Japan's Yamagature Prefecture.

Nakazawa said he would like Thomas "to wear a sword also, and with one more assassin, together we will send out the fourteen assassins over there."

For his part, Thomas said he is delighted to work with "wonderful Japanese filmmakers like Toshiaki Nakazawa and Takashi Miike, whose work speaks for itself as being amongst the most successful and innovative coming from Japan."