Coronavirus: Michael Mann's HBO Max Series 'Tokyo Vice' Halts Production in Japan

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Michael Mann

Japan has recorded far fewer confirmed coronavirus infections than its regional neighbors, but box office in the country has taken a dive, and major entertainment facilities like Tokyo Disneyland remain closed.

HBO Max's upcoming crime thriller Tokyo Vice has joined the growing list of major Hollywood productions to hit pause in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The series, helmed by four-time Oscar nominee Michael Mann, had been shooting on location in Tokyo since March 5. Although conditions in Japan have not deteriorated to the same extent as in Europe or the U.S. — cinemas, restaurants and bars remain open there, for example — WarnerMedia has opted to err on the side of caution and suspend shooting for an undetermined period, a source working on the show tells The Hollywood Reporter. 

The series is loosely inspired by American journalist Jake Adelstein’s 2009 memoir, Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan, which chronicles his time spent covering organized crime for the Yomiuri Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest newspapers. Adelstein was the first Westerner to work the crime beat for the paper and spent 12 years there.

Tokyo Vice stars Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver) as the American journalist, Ken Watanabe as a Tokyo police detective and Rinko Kikuchi (Babel) as a Japanese journalist.

Mann is directing the 10-episode series pilot and will serve as an executive producer. John Lesher (Birdman, Black Mass), Emily Gerson Saines (Temple Grandin), Watanabe and Elgort also executive produce. Endeavor Content is serving as the studio.

Tokyo Vice follows scores of other big productions that have gone on hiatus around the world over the past week, including Amazon's mega-budget Lord of the Rings series, Disney's Avatar sequels, Netflix's The Witcher, Marvel's Shang-Chi, and many more. 

To date, Japan has seen just 834 confirmed coronavirus infections, not including the roughly 700 cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Yokohama. The country's rate of testing for the virus is far behind its regional neighbors, however.

Japan has tested just 66 people per million residents, compared to 3,692 people per million in South Korea and 2,820 per million in China. Japan has recorded 27 deaths, for a mortality rate of 3.2 percent — significantly higher than the averages in other parts of Asia where the virus has been contained. Critics of Japan's response have argued that the somewhat higher death rate shows that testing in the country is inadequate.

Although Japan's public transport systems and many aspects of daily life remain undisturbed by the outbreak, in late February the government closed schools and requested that all large-scale events and activities be postponed. The Tokyo Disney Resort and Universal Studios in Osaka both have closed their doors until at least the start of April. Japan's box office has taken a major dive — on the weekend of March 7 to March 8, box office was down 61 percent from the same frame a year ago, for example — but most cinemas in the country remain open.