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47 RONIN

Sets, Location and Design
The shoot for 47 Ronin was split between studio work in Budapest and filming on expansive back-lot sets at Shepperton Studios near London. Indeed, the goal for the production team was to create a romanticized vision of Japan from scratch. Producer McLeod sums: "A lot of people who haven't been to Japan have a mind's-eye vision of what Japan might look like. This film takes that to another level: It's greener, brighter."

Reflects Abdy on the challenges that were in store from day one: "You couple Chris and Hossein's script with making the film in London and Budapest, and trying to re-create feudal Japan. It was a multilayered process that took many talented people to pull off."

The filmmakers knew that in order to do the production justice, they would need to work on a grand scale. At the same time, they needed to capture the idiosyncrasies of life in 18th-century Japan while honoring their desire to bring a never-before-seen take on the national tale of this country to the big screen.

Rinsch discusses what was required: "We did incredibly diligent research, making sure we knew the culture and then paying respect to it by making it our own and twisting it in a way that would make sense to any culture. However, the Japanese have codified logic to seemingly everyday tasks; the Westerner always has to be careful not to offend. Something as simple as making sure all the kimonos are worn left over right becomes hugely important. Only after death do you wear it right over left. If you are not careful, you will end up with a cast of walking dead."

"Our sets are big," reveals Abdy. "They're elaborate. They have visualeffects set extensions. Then there's the detail of the set dressing, which is as authentic as possible, even down to the little details like the tea, the rooms, the tatami mats. There's a scene where Mika is putting makeup on to get ready for her wedding to Lord Kira. The detail in everything, down to the brushes and the way that the makeup is actually placed within the bowls-how it's carried, the colors, the way it's put on, the very structure of the lipstick-there are a million of those elements to get right in every department."

Two-time Oscar-nominated production designer Jan Roelfs, who most recently designed the globetrotting juggernaut Fast & Furious 6, and his crew set about creating 47 Ronin's iconic locations. In Budapest, his team built huge sets for the Ako courtyard, Dejima Island and the Tengu Forest. While at Shepperton, they constructed the Ako exterior and Kira's fortress for the film's grand finale.

McLeod takes a moment to commend the team's work: "The detail is extraordinary. On the Ako set, the trees were in full bloom with cherry blossoms. That, itself, is such an iconic Japanese vision. The stark contrast between Ako's fortress, with its beautiful cherry blossoms, and the darkness of Kira's fortress lends itself well to the story's journey from beginning to end."

In sum, 15,000 artificial cherry blossoms were hand-tied to each tree, and the trees themselves were so big that they had to be dismantled at source and shipped to the U.K. in sections. The sets were also enhanced with bamboo plants-300 in total, each about 50-feet high-which had been shipped from Italy, as well as 3-foot-high bonsai trees, some of which were, staggeringly, more than 100 years old.

As an example of Roelf's team's work, Reeves walks us through the final act of the film, a siege on Kira's fortress that was shot on the back lot at Shepperton Studios: "The 47 Ronin have gained the cooperation of the acting troupe who are supposed to perform that night for Lord Kira. We gain access to the castle and begin to strategically place ourselves within it. And there's this orchestrated moment when we are going to try and take the life of Lord Kira and free the princess."

The set was absolutely ideal, says Asano. "It was perfect: ugly, cold and bare. In other words, exactly right for the character of Kira."

Reeves admits to being overwhelmed by the level of detail that went into building the film's sets, in particular, the work done on Kira's fortress. "We had such fantastic sets," he proudly says. "And so much has been achieved in-camera. There are set extensions, special effects and creatures, but we had these big sets. It's old-style moviemaking: huge sets, lots of extras, costumes, lights, cameras, action. You're getting to see the fun of how the few-the Ronin-get to take on the many. There's arrows and fighting and swordplay, and it takes place through all these different courtyards."

In our version of the legend, Kai grew up in the Tengu Forest, a set constructed by Roelfs and his team in Budapest. Abdy was particularly taken with this set piece. She enthuses: "The Tengu Forest is spectacular. It's probably the most fantastical element in the film, setwise, and it has so many elements to it. It's a way for the audience to dive into this mysterious place where Kai is from."

Akanishi concurs, offering that his character's first battle scene was very intimidating: "The cave, especially, was very strange and scary-looking, and I was impressed by how much detail the crew had put into it. It was incredibly intricate. It was the first set for me, and seeing it for the first time, I was amazed."

In Budapest, the production built the surroundings of Dejima Island, a Dutch-owned trading post that was subsequently consumed by land reclamation in the bay of Nagasaki. It is here that Kai and Oishi trade blows, when the latter man tries to spring Kai from captivity. McLeod believes there's no one better than Roelfs to visualize the world of 47 Ronin. He commends: "Jan's thought process, not only for the design of the film, but how it works with the complexities of the stunts and the visual effects, took everything into account."

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