Posted on Tuesday, June 1st, 2010 by Russ Fischer
Ken Watanabe has worked as an actor in Japan for over twenty years, and since his breakout western role in The Last Samurai, he’s become a fan-favorite character actor. Now, as Watanabe is about to be seen in Christopher Nolan’s Inception, there is word that the actor is in talks to make the leap to director. Appropriately enough, the man who played a major role in Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima looks like he’ll use the story of the Japanese-American 442nd Infantry Regiment as the basis for his directorial debut.
While the site is calling it a rumor for now, Pajiba has heard, “on pretty good authority” that Watanabe is in early talks to direct 442nd. As one might suspect, the film would follow the 442nd Infantry Regiment, aka the most decorated unit in American military history.
The background of the 442nd is unusual. When the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor led to an executive order paving the way for the internment of Japanese-Americans, most Japanese Americans in Hawaii were discharged from military service. But 1300 soldiers in two National Guard battalions were retained. Sent to the mainland, they formed with 100th Infantry Battalion. Months later, inspired by the success of that unit, 3000 volunteers were drawn from Japanese Americans interred in Hawaii and California, and at Camp Shelby in Mississippi they formed the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Soldiers of Japanese heritage were not allowed to fight in the Pacific Theater, and the 100th was originally assigned a support role. But when sent to Europe, the 442nd began to fight in Italy before aiding the invasion of occupied Southern France, and eventually pushing into Germany. The 442nd showed incredible valor and also suffered high casualties. While rescuing 230 men from the 141st Infantry ‘Lost Battalion’ in October 1944, the unit lost 800 men.
Needless to say, there’s a hell of a movie in the history of the 442nd, so we’ll pay close attention to this one and see what develops. We still don’t know who might be writing, and if the script would be based on a specific source account of the unit.