WOWOW, Japan’s leading premium pay TV broadcaster, announced today that Academy Award nominee Ken Watanabe (“The Last Samurai”) will lend his voice as narrator to Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi’s documentary “The 50 Year Argument” for the Japanese audience.
WOWOW co-produced “The 50 Year Argument” with HBO Documentary Films, BBC Arena and Scorsese’s Sikelia Productions. Margaret Bodde produced the film with Scorsese and Tedeschi. Kayo Washio, who runs WOWOW's Los Angeles office, is executive producer for WOWOW, while Anthony Wall is executive producer for BBC Arena. Cinephil handles international sales.
Said Scorsese, “I’ve always loved Ken Watanabe — his presence, the beauty of his movement, his precision, his delicacy. And his voice. He seemed to me to have exactly the right kind of voice for the Japanese narration of this picture, and I’m honored and certainly happy that he accepted.”
Scorsese added, “The idea of someone having faith in these ideas and making the films possible is extremely important to me. WOWOW's support means a great deal to us, really.”
Watanabe commented, “I have a lot of respect for the ‘matter-of-fact approach’ this film takes and believe this kind of intelligent film should be seen in Japan. It’s important to convey the truth even if it’s painful, which is needed in Japan these days. Martin and I have had a dialogue over the last 10 years and have always discussed working together if we had a chance, and I am delighted that this project has brought us together.”
WOWOW’s Kayo Washio said, “I’m very happy to have Ken on board to narrate this film for our audience and that fact that he truly identifies with the film and its messaging will provide an even more authentic connection with the viewers. The painstaking detail and nuance that goes into Ken’s narration will be evident to our audience and we believe they will love it.”
The film will play in Japan exclusively on WOWOW and has also been made an official selection of the 27th Tokyo International Film Festival where it will screen in the special screenings section.
Since its founding over fifty years ago during the New York City newspaper strike of 1963, America’s leading journal of ideas has pursued its goal with rigor, a unique style and more than its share of controversy. “The 50 Year Argument,” directed by acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese and his longtime documentary collaborator David Tedeschi, rides the waves of literary, political and cultural history in much the same way as the paper itself.
Provocative, idiosyncratic and incendiary, the film weaves rarely seen archival material, contributor interviews and excerpts from writings by such icons as James Baldwin, Gore Vidal, and Joan Didion with original verité footage filmed in the Review’s West Village office. These scenes reflect the humming, restless energy of a magazine that, heading into its second half-century, still feels as vital as its founding editors, Robert Silvers and the late Barbara Epstein. Confrontation and intelligent argument are in its DNA, as illustrated in the documentary by the skirmish between Vidal and Norman Mailer over women’s liberation, Mary McCarthy's jeremiad against American hegemony in Vietnam, Mark Danner's investigation into the use of enhanced interrogation during the Iraq war, and Michael Greenberg’s analysis of the Occupy movement. Joan Didion's reading from her quietly furious explication of the 1989 Central Park Jogger Case, filmed at the recent fiftieth anniversary event at New York's Town Hall, exemplifies the film's approach: honor the writers, the writing, and the paper's determination to reveal the truth in all its complexity.
The film captures the power of ideas in shaping history. “Magazines don’t change the world,” says contributor Avishai Margalit, “but they shape a certain kind of climate of ideas. Influence is like the knight in chess, one move straight and then diagonal. It doesn’t go in straight lines.” The film documents this extraordinary process, through the inimitable filmmaking style of Martin Scorsese.
Ken Watanabe is widely known to English speaking audiences for playing tragic hero characters, such as General Tadamichi Kuribayashi in “Letters from Iwo Jima" and Lord Katsumoto Moritsugu in "The Last Samurai," for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Among other awards, he has won the Japan Academy Prize for Best Actor twice, in 2007 for "Memories of Tomorrow" and in 2010 for "Shizumanu Taiy?." He is also known for his roles in director Christopher Nolan's Hollywood films “Batman Begins” and “Inception.” In 2014, he starred in the reboot of “Godzilla,” and lent his voice to the fourth installment of the “Transformers” franchise, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” as Decepticon, turned Autobot, Drift.
Watanabe will make his Broadway debut this spring in Lincoln Center Theatre’s revival production of “The King and I” in the title role (opposite Kelli O’Hara as Anna Leonowens).