I like entertainment work because I can meet celebrities. This may sound too naive, but don't jump to conclusions. Of course it is fun to tell your friends about the celebrities you met. I think there is something more to it.
The celebrities in the entertainment world are people who created a masterpiece independently drawing on their talents. They are different from a person who became the president of a company because he was a little bit better than the other people. I can feel the enormous power held by entertainment celebrities which is resonant with whatever talent I have.
The history of my entertainment work goes as far back as 1974 when I joined Logan, Okamoto and Takashima. Some of the clients of that firm were in the motion picture business - Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Brothers, etc.... There were also Japanese motion picture companies and I prepared a short contract for Toei Co., Ltd. When I quit Logan, Okamoto and Takashima and joined Masuda & Ejiri, there were only a few clients who followed me and none of them were entertainment clients. To my surprise, shortly after I joined Masuda & Ejiri, Toei called and asked me to prepare a small film production contract. Although the works I did for Toei were minor, I enjoyed the work. I used to be a movie fan and I saw ten times more pictures than an average Japanese movie-goer did.
One day I had a phone call from Mr. Takasugi of Toei saying that director Nagisa Oshima is planning to produce a film and seeking for legal advice. Nagisa Oshima was one of the so-called nouvelle vague directors and was very popular among young people. I had seen some of his pictures in my student days and was intrigued by his radical expression. Ms. Eiko Oshima, Nagisa Oshima's sister, came to see me in the winter of 1981. She told me that Nagisa was planning to shoot a picture based upon a novel The Seed and the Sower written by Sir Laurens van der Post. The novel was about a love-hate relationship between a Japanese soldier and an English soldier during the Japanese occupation of Indonesia. Due to the theme of the film, no Japanese motion picture companies were willing to fund the film. Thus Oshima was endeavoring to get the money from abroad. Eiko told me that there was a good possibility of the funds coming from a foreign bank and as soon as the funding was finalized, a motion picture production agreement must be prepared. Six months passed without any news and suddenly I received voluminous documents from Oshima and was instructed to review the documents before the executive producer arrived from England. A few days later, I had a conference with Nagisa Oshima and Terry Glinwood, the executive producer of the film. Without knowing much about the project, I flew to London to participate in a negotiation for the film production contract. I was at the age of 35 and I had no experience in international film production.
The picture Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence was really an international picture. The money came from Japan (Nagisa Oshima himself and TV Asahi) and New Zealand (an investment bank), the producer was Jeremy Thomas from England, the director was Nagisa Oshima, the actors were from Japan (Ryuichi Sakamoto, Beat Takeshi), England (David Bowie, Tom Conti) and other countries, and the shooting was done in Japan and New Zealand. Jeremy Thomas was a young producer in the early thirties. He is now known as the producer of The Last Emperor . Paul Carran, the lawyer representing a New Zealand investment bank, joined the negotiation. Paul and I stayed at the same hotel, had breakfast together, went shoping together and became friends. Everyday while I was there, I left the hotel with Paul and walked to the office of Simon Olswang, which was in a smart looking house in the residential area.
That was the first time I was involved in a big motion picture deal and I learned a lot from Simon and Paul, who were experts in this field. It seemed that Simon had thought that the contract would be concluded within a week, but, the negotiation went on and on and suddenly Simon said I must sail to the Aegean Sea in my yacht. The yacht has no telephone and there is no way you can reach me. It was vacation time. I was a bit surprised but Simon's absence did not affect the contract much thanks to his brilliant associate, Mark Devereux. Click here and you can see Simon and Mark.
There are more interesting stories which would some day appear on my home page. In any event, the contract was concluded with the efforts of the parties involved. The picture was successful and it was a surprise to everybody when it missed the Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival. Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence became one of the most popular pictures directed by Nagisa Oshima.
Mr. Masato Hara, President of Herald Ace (now Ace Pictures), participated in the production of Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence as an executive producer. Mr. Hara called me in December 1982 saying that Akira Kurosawa wished to make a picture with French funds and asked whether I can help. I was a Kurosawa fan and I had seen more than fifteen Kurosawa pictures by then, and I could not believe that I would be working for this legendary director. Several days later Akira Kurosawa himself came to the office. That was the beginning of my struggle with the producer Serge Silverman (some people called him a monster) which continued for over three years. The drama of making a contract for the picture Ran was more dramatic to me than the picture itself. I will try to write about it hopefully before the end of 1997. Before you can see the whole story on this home page, I would like to introduce to you my memo on my appearance in Ran as an extra.
What I Saw as an Extra in Ran .
Mr. Izeki of Herald Ace called me on June 21, 1984 and asked me whether I was interested in appearing in Ran . I had no reason to refuse.
On June 23 (Sat.) I woke up at 6:00 a.m. and went to the Kurosawa Film Studio in Kanagawa Prefecture. I was told by Mr. Izeki that my role would be a warrior who attends a meeting called by Jiro (who is the second son of Hidetora, or the equivalent of Shakespeare's King Lear). It was an important scene in the picture with Jinpachi Nezu as Jiro and Mieko Harada as Kaede no Kata.
It took me more than an hour to wear a samurai costume with makeup which made me look as though I had just returned from a fierce battle. I met Ms. Nogami, an elderly lady who assisted Mr. Kurosawa for more than thirty years. She paid her compliments on the way I look in the costume and took my picture. We were rather late for the designated time and we hurried to the studio. Mr. Kurosawa was up on a scaffold directing a host of extras, probably over one hundred of them. Ms. Nogami took me to the scaffold and said Here is Norisugi-san. Mr. Kurosawa seemed puzzled and bowed without saying a word. When I was about to mount the stage, I heard Mr. Kurosawa say Who is that?... That's Norisugi-san, the attorney..., What? who called Norisugi-san?... Norisugi-san insisted on coming..... When I finally got up onto the stage, the extra warriors were already arranged in a U-shape and I found a small space at the bottom of that U-shape. Soon Mr. Kurosawa approached me and told his assistant Not there. Bring Norisugi-san to the place where he gets a better exposure. Yes, there, right behind those three warriors. I was taken to the best spot beside the pillar. The warriors there looked at me with dubious eyes. In the morning, the shooting was done with cameras behind the bottom of the U-shape taking Kaede no Kata from the front. It was the scene where the warriors bowed to greet Kaede no Kata joining the meeting. After the shooting, Mr. Kurosawa came beside me and said Norisugi-san, you look nice. I did not recognize it was you. The shooting in the morning ended at 12:30.
Lunch boxes were distributed and we sat on wooden boxes placed behind the studio and had lunch. The extras were mostly employees of Herald Ace and other people related to the production. This was because the age of the extras had to be older than the extras appearing in the battle scenes where most of them were students. The shooting in the afternoon began from 1:30 p.m. and the cameras came right in front of me. Only the row where I was in (of the U-shape) remained and the rest was dismissed. It was a scene where Kaede no Kata criticized Jiro for wearing the armor (yoroikabuto ) of Taro (Jiro's elder brother and Kaede no Kata's husband). Mr. Kurosawa advised the extras that their eyes should follow the movement of the actors. Before the final shooting, the studio was filled with enormous tension and it was difficult to breath normally. After the shooting Mr. Kurosawa came to me and said, You are in the picture all right, but you did not appear so clearly as I had expected.
As I was about to leave the studio, Mr. Izeki came up to me and invited me to drink beer at a restaurant annexed to the studio. After drinking a glass of beer, Mr. Izeki and I went to the staff room to say good-by to Mr. Kurosawa. The staff were busy preparing for a party since it was the last day of the studio shooting. Mr. Kurosawa asked me to join the party and he invited me to sit right next to him. Eventually Nezu and Harada came and the party started with about thirty to forty people. Kurosawa told Harada that he had once toyed with the idea of making her appear naked in the picture, however, Kurosawa said that he was not much excited about naked woman for sometime and gave up that idea. Kurosawa talked about the decorations and awards he got from foreign governments, episodes from the Toho strike, how demanding Silverman was, etc. Nezu dozed off in a short while.
The picture Ran was not much of a commercial success; however, critics abroad praised the picture highly and one association of critics ranked it as the best picture in the world in the 1980s. After Ran , Kurosawa had little difficulty getting funds for his new pictures and he directed three pictures at brief intervals. My work for Mr. Kurosawa became less dramatic and all I had to do was to check agreements. This situation changed in January 1988 when I was requested by Kurosawa Production to settle the disputes with Toho which lasted for thirty years. Although I was successful in getting a favorable settlement with Toho, the conditions of the settlement gave rise to a lawsuit by MGM against Kurosawa, and subsequently, a lawsuit by Kurosawa against MGM and Toho. These lawsuits concerned the famous picture The Seven Samurai and I am writing about it now on this home page (but only in Japanese).