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Samurai spirit moves Cruise

Izumisano, Japan, Oct. 8 (Reuters): Actor Tom Cruise spoke of his admiration for Japan’s warrior spirit at a news conference in western Japan today to mark the start of shooting for his next movie, The Last Samurai.

Set in 19th century Japan, the film stars Cruise as a fictional US military officer hired by the Japanese government to train their army in the art of modern warfare.

“I always had a deep respect and a strong feeling for this culture of Japanese people and the elegance and the beauty of the samurai spirit,” Cruise said, describing the role as a “dream-come-true thing”.

In the film, his character, Captain Nathan Algren, finds himself impressed and influenced by the samurai, even as the Japanese government attempts to eradicate their old- fashioned ways on the way to westernisation.

Director Edward Zwick, whose other credits include The Siege and Courage Under Fire is to start shooting in Japan on Thursday, followed by stints in New Zealand and the US. The Last Samurai is due to be released worldwide in early 2004, Warner Brothers Pictures said.

“This film is the best birthday present that anyone could ever have,” said Zwick, who turned 50 today.

The cast also includes Japanese star Hiroyuki Sanada as Algren’s fencing master. Sanada’s acting credits include playing the fool in King Lear with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

“What we hope to do is to pay homage to the samurai spirit. Our intention is to celebrate the beauty and elegance of that portion of your culture,” Cruise said.

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