Chadwick Boseman, the star of Black Panther, has signed on to portray Yasuke, a native of Portuguese Mozambique who became the first African samurai. The movie, which is set in the 16th century, is based on a true story.
Chadwick Boseman seems set to play every black historical and culturally significant figure. His roles so far have included Jackie Robinson in 42 (2013), James Brown in Get on Up (2014), Thurgood Marshall in Marshall (2017) and the superhero Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films.
Unlike other black-themed movies that have perpetrated historical inaccuracies to make them palatable for none-minority audiences, this movie is promising to stick to the historical facts of the story.
In the 16th century, Japan was internally divided and externally isolated. It was split into provinces, which were under the rule of various local feudal lords known as "daimyōs". The island nation remained relatively closed off to the outside world, until the Age of Exploration, which brought European explorers to every corner of the globe, bringing a mix of fascinating new outsiders to Japan.
The legendary Yasuke was the first samurai of African descent in the history of feudal Japan. He served under Oda Nobunaga, a ruthless warlord who sought to unite the fractured country under his banner. This was in the 1570s, after Yasuke had been passed on to Nobunaga by the powerful Portuguese Jesuit missionary Alessandro Valignano as "a weapon bearer and novelty".
As the first black man to set foot on Japanese soil, Yasuke's arrival aroused the interest of Nobunaga. A complex relationship developed between the two men as Yasuke earned Nobunaga's friendship, respect and then, ultimately, the honour, swords and title of samurai.
The film's synopsis describes it as "the true story of 16th century warrior Yasuke: In his quest for redemption and honour, Yasuke, the only known samurai of African origin, becomes entrenched in a struggle for control of feudal Japan."
"People in the streets did not only gape at him," biographers wrote. "They bowed, heads to the earth, as they addressed him."
Discussing the character, Boseman said: "The legend of Yasuke is one of history's best-kept secrets, the only person of non-Asian origin to become a samurai. That's not just an action movie, that's a cultural event, an exchange, and I am excited to be part of it."
According to Slash Film, Yasuke has been in the works for a long time, first getting started at the entertainment company Lionsgate, under Erik Feige. The project became completely derailed before it gained momentum again when MGM recently set a rival Yasuke-themed project.
Now Erik Feig's Picturestart has teamed with Mike De Luca and his De Luca Productions banner, Stephen L'Heureux and his Solipsist banner, and Boseman and Logan Coles's Xception Content to produce the film adaptation of the story of Yasuke, according to Deadline.com.
Doug Miro, best known for co-creating the acclaimed Netflix series Narcos, will pen the script. His other credits include The Great Wall, The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.