WGAW, Writer's Guild of America West
The Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) has named a quartet of iconic Japanese filmmakers - Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Ryûzô Kikushima, and Hideo Oguni - as honorees of its 2013 Jean Renoir Award for Screenwriting Achievement, given to an international writer(s) who has advanced the literature of motion pictures and made outstanding contributions to the profession of screenwriter.
The four screenwriters, among other honorees, will be feted at the 2013 Writers Guild Awards West Coast ceremony on Sunday, February 17, at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE.
"Our Jean Renoir Award, honoring those non-U.S. writers whose work has raised the bar for all of us, this year goes to Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni, Ryûzô Kikushima, and Shinobu Hashimoto, honoring the writing at the heart of the Japanese cinema," said WGAW Vice President Howard A. Rodman. "These four men, working in loose collaboration, are responsible for writing many, many masterpieces - films that reflect the Japanese culture, and have given all of us a taste of the sublime."
Writer-director-producer Akira Kurosawa was born in 1910 in Tokyo, Japan and died in 1998 at the age of 88. During his six-decade career, the celebrated filmmaker directed over 30 films - and wrote or contributed to over 70 titles. Following a brief stint as a painter, Kurosawa entered the film industry in 1936. After learning his craft as an assistant director (often working under director Kajiro Yamamoto) and screenwriter on numerous films, he made his directorial debut in 1943 with the well-received action film Sanshiro Sugata (co-written with Tsuneo Tomita), following this effort up with his breakthrough filmDrunken Angel, casting a then-unknown actor Toshiro Mifune, forming a long-term creative partnership, as they would Go On to collaborate on some 16 films together.
Following a key piece of advice that mentor Yamamoto gave him early on in his career - "a good director needs to master screenwriting" - Kurosawa would Go On to ultimately write or co-write all of the films that he directed, as well as pen screenplays for peer Japanese directors.
Emerging as a maverick talent with a signature eye and voice, Kurosawa's impressive run of award-winning, acclaimed films played a pivotal role in exposing Japanese cinema to a global audience, their critical and commercial success drawing increased attention to his fellow Japanese filmmakers in the Western world. His seminal films include his first major international hit Rashomon (1950), which won an honorary Academy Award for most outstanding foreign language film, the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion Award, and National Board of Review Awards for Best Director and Best Foreign Film; the touching human drama Ikiru (1952), which won a Special Prize of the Senate at the Berlin International Film Festival, the Epic adventure Seven Samurai (1954), which won the Venice Film Festival's Silver Lion, received two Oscar nominations, and was later remade as the classic Western The Magnificent Seven (1960); Throne of Blood (1957), Kurosawa's riveting take of William Shakespeare's "Macbeth," The Hidden Fortress (1958), which earned a Silver Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival for Best Direction and provided what many consider the narrative blueprint for George Lucas' '70s sci-fi blockbuster Star Wars; The Bad Sleep Well (1960), High and Low (1963), Red Beard (1965), Dodes'ka-den (1970), Dersu Uzala (1975), and a pair of rollicking samurai comedies, Sanjuro (1962) and Yojimbo (1961), which was first remade as Sergio Leone's 1964 spaghetti Western A Fistful of Dollars, then later as 1996 actioner Last Man Standing. His other notable early films include The Men Who Tread on Tiger's Tail (1945), One Wonderful Sunday (1947), Stray Dog (1949), Scandal(1950), and The Idiot (1951).
Although less prolific in his later years, his final two epics - Kagemusha (1980), co-written with Masato Ide, which earned the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or and a Best Direction BAFTA Award, as well as two Oscar nominations, including Best Foreign Language Film, and Ran (1985), co-written with Oguni and Ide, a sprawling adaptation of William Shakespeare's "King Lear," which earned four Academy Award nominations, including Best Director for Kurosawa (and an Oscar for Best Costume Design for Emi Wada), as well as a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Film and National Board of Review Awards for Best Director and Best Foreign Film - cemented Kurosawa's reputation as one of the most important, influential filmmakers in the history of cinema. Recognizing him as a filmmaking master, Kurosawa received an honorary Academy Award for Lifetime achievement in 1990 for his "cinematic accomplishments that have inspired delighted, enriched and entertained worldwide audiences and influenced filmmakers throughout the world."
Kurosawa's later, smaller-scale films include 1990's Dreams, an idiosyncratic, personal work based on his own dreams, 1991's Rhapsody in August, written by Kurosawa and based on the novel "Nabe no Naka" by Kiyoko Murata, which received Japanese Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay, and his final film, 1993's Madadayo, written by Kurosawa and based on essays by Hyakken Uchida). In 1999, he received a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award from the Japanese Academy, as well as 2001 Japanese Academy Award for Best Screenplay for After the Rain (1999). In 1982, Kurosawa received a Career Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival, and a decade later in 1992, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Directors Guild of America for his body of film work.
In his memoir, Something Like an Autobiography, Kurosawa wrote, "With a good script a good director can produce a masterpiece; with the same script a mediocre director can make a passable film. But with a bad script even a good director can't possibly make a good film. For truly cinematic expression, the camera and the microphone must be able to cross both fire and water. That is what makes a real movie. The script must be something that has the power to do this... If your goal is to become a film director, you must master screenwriting," adding: "At some point in the writing of every script I feel like giving the whole thing up. From my many experiences of writing screenplays, however, I have learned something: If I hold fast in The Face of this blankness and despair, adopting the tactic of Bodhidharma, who glared at the wall that stood in his way until his legs became useless, a path will open up."
"The WGAW's Jean Renoir Award is meant to shine light upon that path - one that Mr. Kurosawa, Mr. Oguni, Mr. Kikushima, and Mr. Hashimoto so elegantly and movingly blazed for the rest of us," said Rodman.
Screenwriter Kikushima was born in 1914 and died in 1989. Having written or contributed to over 60 films during his lifetime, Kikushima was a frequent creative collaborator with director Kurosawa, co-writing many classic films together, beginning withStray Dog (1949), and continuing with Scandal (1950), Throne of Blood (1957, co-written with Kurosawa, Oguni, andHashimoto, based on the William Shakespeare's play "Macbeth"), The Last Fortress (1958, co-written with Kurosawa, Oguni, and Hashimoto), The Bad Sleep Well (1960, co-written with Kurosawa, Oguni, Hashimoto, and Eijiro Hisaita), Yojimbo (1961, co-written by Kurosawa), Sanjuro (1962, co-written with Kurosawa and Oguni), High and Low (1963, co-written with Kurosawa, Oguni, and Eijiro Hisaita), which received an Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination for Best Foreign Film, and Red Beard (1965, co-written with Kurosawa, Oguni, and Masato Ide), among other Kurosawa titles.
Kikushima's additional screenwriting or co-writing credits include films such as Tange Sazen (co-written with Masashige Narusawa, based on a serial story by Itsuma Maki, 1952), Till We Meet Again (1955, based on the novel by Yasushi Inoue), A Will o' the Wisp (Onibi, 1956), Arashi (1956, based on a story by Toson Shimazaki), Last Day of the Samurai (1957, co-written by Tokuhei Wakao), Kistune to tanuki (1959), Naruse's breathtaking When A Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960),Afraid to Die (co-written with Hideo Ando), 500,000 (1963), the WWII U.S.-Japanese military Epic Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970, Screenplay by Larry Forrester and Hideo Oguni and Ryuzo Kikushima, Based on the book by Gordon W. Prange), Willful Murder (1981, based on the book by Kimio Yada), which earned Kikushima a Japanese Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay, Prince from the Moon (co-written with Shinya Hidaka, Kon Ichikawa, and Mitsutoshi Ishigami, based on the novel Taketori Monogatari by Shikibu Murasaki), and The Demon Comes in Spring (1989, based on the novel by Tokuhei Suchi).
Born in 1918 and a frequent collaborator as part of Kurosawa's creative team, Hashimoto wrote or contributed to some 61 films, including several films that have achieved classic status: Rashomon, Ikiru, The Bad Sleep Well, Sanjuro, High and Low, Dodes'ka-den, and Ran, among others. Over the course of his career, Hoshimoto has earned five Best Screenplay Blue Ribbon Awards, for Rashomon (1951, shared with Kurosawa), Darkness at Noon (1957), The Chase and Summer Clouds(both 1958), Harakiri (1963), and The Great White Tower (1967).
Hashimoto's additional screenwriting or co-screenwriting credits include Kubi (1968), Tidal Wave (1973), and Hakkodasan(1977) and Village of Eight Gravestones (1977), both of which earned Japanese Academy Best Screenplay nominations. He also earned a quintet of Best Screenplay Kinema Junpo Awards for the films Samurai Rebellion (1967), Japan's Longest Day (1967), The Castle of Sand (1974, shared with Yoji Yamada), The Great White Tower (1966), The Bad Sleep Well (1960, shared with Kurosawa), and The Hidden Fortress (shared with co-writer Kurosawa), Yoru no tsuzami, and The Chase (all 1958).
As this Japanese creative team's senior member, screenwriter-director-producer Oguni wrote or contributed to over 100 films during his career, including cinematic classic such as Ikiru, Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, The Bad Sleep Well, Sanjuro, High and Low, Dodes'ka-den, and Ran, collaborating with Kurosawa as his most frequent screenwriting partner from the 1950s through the mid-1980s. Born in 1904 in Aomori, Japan, Oguni died in 1996 at age 91.
Named after influential filmmaker Jean Renoir, the WGAW's Lifetime achievement international screenwriting award is given on an occasional basis to honor screenwriters working outside the U.S. and in other languages. Previous WGAW Jean Renoir Award honorees include late Italian screenwriters Suso D'Amico (in 2009) and Tonino Guerra (in 2011).
The 2013 Writers Guild Awards will be held on Sunday, February 17, 2013, at simultaneous ceremonies at the JW Marriott L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles and the B.B. King Blues Club in New York City. For more information about the 2013 Writers Guild Awards, please visit www.wga.org or www.wgaeast.org.