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47 RONIN

Stunts and Martial Arts
Stunt coordinator GARY POWELL, who has served in that capacity on films from Skyfall and Quantum of Solace to Unstoppable and The Bourne Ultimatum, was charged with manning the fight teams. Says Rinsch: "Gary did an incredible job. We wanted to get as much on camera as we could of the fighting, and he led the stunt team to incredible results."

Reeves is no stranger to Asian fighting styles, having learned several hand-to-hand martial arts for his role in the Matrix trilogy and in his directorial debut of Man of Tai Chi. However, training for 47 Ronin meant learning Japanese fighting styles that involved weaponry. He shares: "I started basic katana sword training before production and did about six weeks of that, laying the groundwork."

Kai's fighting style blends basic, traditional elements with a mythical style of fighting unique to the Tengu masters. As well, it is informed by his time in captivity on Dejima Island, where he's turned into what Reeves describes as a "fighting dog." The performer elaborates: "Kai brings all these kinds of elements of watching samurai, learning the Tengu sword techniques and then pit-fighting techniques."

Reeves shares a pivotal scene at Dejima against Oishi, where the freak master of ceremonies watches it all unfold: "During that fight, we're getting to know each other through styles and through intention. Kai has lost his mind, because he's been in the killing room for a year and has been turned into a killing animal. But Oishi brings him back."

Quite skilled with swordplay himself, Sanada remembers rehearsing this particular scene for weeks. The performer explains: "Oishi is a sword master, but at that time, Japan was peaceful, so a lot of samurai never used their swords. Kai was brought up in Tengu, and his style of fighting was wilder. During the course of the journey, Kai and Oishi learn each other's fighting style."

Reeves says Sanada helped when it came to learning the art of the samurai sword. "Sanada-san is high-hand, high-bar," he enthuses. "He's had classical training with the sword. For him, everything must have meaning. He doesn't want to just have action for action's sake. Each strike flows into the next, and he's very cognizant."

On the Dutch Island of Dejima, Kai encounters another fantastical creature, the Oni (ogre), played by Neil Fingleton (X-Men: First Class), who also plays Kira's gigantic Brute soldier in the beginning of the film-thus allowing Fingleton his second fight of the movie against Reeves. Standing at an impressive 7'7", Fingleton is Britain's tallest man.

Reeves believes that this was one of the toughest fights of his acting career: "That's the challenge. How do you fight someone that tall? In terms of attack, for me it's about working high and low. You go for the feet, you try to get inside. Neil's a professional athlete and has command of his physical skills, even if he started without much experience in stunt fighting."

Fingleton shares his experience of being the biggest man on set: "I've always been very proud of my height. Keanu's a good guy, and it was fun getting to know him. With the fights, it was about understanding how each of us moves, and I guess it was tougher for him because he had to fight looking up." He pauses. "I'm looking down, but I'm used to that!"

The outcast samurai weren't the only men to get in on the action. Akanishi admits he was thrilled to learn the physical side of his role. "I practiced sword fighting and horse riding, and I had never done that before," he enthuses. "It was fun, and they are good things to know."

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