by Chris MaGee
Let me ask this straight out: Do you consider the five members of SMAP to be actors? I mean, sure they've acted in various Japanese TV shows and movies over the past decade, but do you really consider them professional actors? I don't. If anything I'd describe them as tarento, that army of comedians, enka singers, entertainers and famous-for-being-famous celebrities who do the rounds of the various panel shows on Japanese television.
Why am I going off about SMAP, the five member boy band who are hardly boys anymore? It's because of this story posted over at Anime News Network. You'll recall that at the end of last year Leonardo DiCaprio spoke about his plans to produce a live-action film based on Yoshiaki Kawajiri's "Ninja Scroll" anime through his own Appian Way production company. At that time he acknowledged that "...there a lot of loyal fans out there of the project and die-hard fans, so we're going to try to do the best job we possibly can," but according to this article at Anime News Network DiCaprio is considering casting, not one, not two, but all five members of SMAP in his "Ninja Scroll" film!
Now before I go on I have to admit that I'm not a fan of "Ninja Scroll", the animated film about a wandering ninja whose job it is to fight off a group pf supernatural baddies, but I'm obviously a fan of Japanese film and culture, so if there's going to be a Hollywood remake I want to see it done right. It's admirable that DiCaprio wants to "cast with Japanese people" in his film, but you'd think that a three-time Oscar nominee would be a little more aware of some of the fine Japanese actors out there. It's like Koji Yakusho making an American film and saying, "I wanted a cast of skilled actors who I think were the best suited for the job, that's why I'm happy to be working with Miley Cyrus, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, and the cast of 'High School Musical'." See what I mean?
I think that most of us thought it was bad enough when it was announced that SMAP's Shingo Katori would be playing Zatoichi in the supposedly last screen appearance of the iconic blind swordsman, but now there's this to contend with. Let's just hope that this is a case of garbled information from Appian Way, or a die hard SMAP fan starting a rumour and that DiCaprio uses his tremendous knowledge of his craft to sniff out some better Japanese acting talent than this.