From Harvard to Hollywood and Back
Writer-producer-director Ed Zwick went back to school yesterday, as a teacher at Harvard, his alma mater, with a gift in hand: a preview screening and discussion of his soon-to-be-released work, “The Last Samurai.” The movie, starring Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe, is a fictional story — although based on historical figures and actual events — of an American Civil War hero who travels to Japan to train the Emperor’s troops on the use of firearms in wartime. “I’m excited to be back here,” Zwick said, observing that Harvard Square had changed since his student days but that it still had that unique feel. Zwick brought students and faculty a final print of the movie, a version he had yet to see until the Loews Harvard Square screening Sunday night. (After the screening, he met with faculty members of Harvard’s Asian studies department. “They were most receptive and generous,” Zwick said. Then off he went last night to New York for a reception with the Japanese Ambassador to the United States.) Despite the opening of this epic just a few weeks away, Zwick seemed almost too calm, looking forward to a morning of talking to students. “I like the full-circle aspect to it,” said Zwick.”
And, Hanz Zimmer on the Last Samurai
Hans Zimmer’s score for Edward Zwick’s Japanese adventure The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise, will be released on CD by Elektra Records on 25th November. Previously described by the composer as a ‘Gladiator in Japan’, the score is now being promoted prior to the film’s premiere.
As the film is set in Japan in the 1870s, Zimmer felt that he had to capture the sound of Japanese music while writing Western melodies. “The first obstacle I faced with this score was that Japanese music can be truly inaccessible to most Western audiences,” explained Zimmer. He says that he tried “to find a way of contrasting the romanticism of America with the formality and stillness of Japan.” The theme for the Tom Cruise character is, in Hans Zimmer’s own words, “a typically overblown, restless, and, ultimately, very Western theme”.
The ethnic influences in the score are captured through the use of the Japanese Taiko drums. “Everybody uses Taikos in their scores these days, but I felt that nobody had ever really captured their awesome and emotional power. I spent three weeks recording and manipulating around 10,000 Taiko hits electronically until they started to sound natural, and then selected the best ones by their emotional resonance.”