Friday, May 13, 2011

Toei's film on the unmanned Hayabusa space probe welcomes aboard Ken Watanabe

by Chris MaGee

It was back at the end of January when news popped up online about about a big budget outer space film coming from Toei. No, this wasn't going to be a sci-fi epic like "Star Wars" or "Space Battleship Yamato". Toei's production, "Shouwakusei Tansaki Hayabusa: Harukanaru Kikan" would be more science fact than science fiction. The film would chronicle the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Hayabusa space probe project. The Hayabusa, which translates to "peregrine falcon" was launched on 9 May 2003, it's mission to travel to Asteroid 25143 Itokawa which orbits between Earth and Mars and take samples. It then returned to Earth successfully in June of last year. We questioned at the time just how interesting a film about an unmanned space probe could be, but this past week we got additional news, news that sees the film being manned by one of Japan's biggest stars.

This week Tokyograph announced that Ken Watanabe (above right) will be starring in "Shouwakusei Tansaki Hayabusa: Harukanaru Kikan" as the mission control manager of the Hayabusa space probe, a role played in real life by scientist and engineer Junichiro Kawaguchi. No other casting news has been released yet for this ¥1.5 billion budgeted film, but according to the Tokyograph report director Tomoyuki Takimoto (above left) has commissioned the construction of 3 (!) scale models of the Hayabusa space probe.

Look for Ken Watanabe to take us on a tour of outer space in "Shouwakusei Tansaki Hayabusa: Harukanaru Kikan" set for release in Japanese theatres next year. Thanks to for the above photo.

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