Ken Watanabe to Star in Film About Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

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Ken Watanabe

'Fukushima 50' will tell the story of the workers who stayed at the power plant after a massive tsunami had knocked out its cooling systems.

Ken Watanabe will star as the head of the crisis-hit Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Fukushima 50, from Japan's Kadokawa Corporation and directed by Setsuro Wakamatsu.

Watanabe will play Masao Yoshida, the superintendent of the plant who was on duty when it was swamped by a tsunami that followed a massive earthquake in Japan's northeast on March 11, 2011, knocking out the cooling systems. Yoshida ignored orders by his bosses at Tokyo Electric Power Co. and pumped seawater into the overheating reactors, likely preventing a worse disaster.

The following year, Yoshida was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and died in July 2013 at age 58.

The crewmembers at the plant who stayed on to try and prevent the meltdown of three reactors at the nuclear power station were lauded in the international media as the "Fukushima 50."

Appearing alongside Watanabe will be veteran actor Koichi Sato, who in his 106th career role will play the shift supervisor at the time of the disaster. The film is based on the book On the Brink: The Inside Story of Fukushima Daiichi by Ryusho Kadota.

"I had promised to Koichi that I would play any role in his next film," said Watanabe. "However, this was a challenging film to be a part of when the people of Fukushima are still suffering such loss and devastation. My hope is that, along with the wonderful cast and Wakamatsu directing, we will make a film that shows the intensity and bravery of these people that prevented a tragedy of epic proportions."

Said Wakamatsu: "The Fukushima accident shook not only the people of Japan but also around the world. This film is about the power plant workers on the front line who faced an unprecedented crisis and risked their lives to save their families, their hometown and avert a disaster of global magnitude."

Shooting on the film is set to begin at the end of November, with a release scheduled for 2020.