Ken Watanabe responds to 'white savior' criticism of Tom Cruise role in 'The Last Samurai'

·2 min read

Though the 2003 film “The Last Samurai” has previously come under fire for allegedly perpetuating the “white savior” trope, its star, Ken Watanabe, recently revealed that he doesn’t see it that way.

“The Last Samurai” follows the exploits of an American military officer, played by Tom Cruise, hired to train the Japanese Army in modern warfare, which brings him into direct contact with their samurai leader, Katsumoto, played by Watanabe.

When the film first released in theaters, it was met with criticism for allegedly portraying the film’s lead character, played by Tom Cruise, as a “white savior” rescuing non-white characters from a position of superiority.

Watanabe recently reflected on the film’s backlash and legacy in an interview with The Guardian.

More from NextShark: 'We are Americans': ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ sheds light on anti-Asian hate in latest Season 18 episode

“I didn’t think of it like that,” Watanabe told The Guardian, “I just thought we had the opportunity to depict Japan in a way that we were never able to before. So we thought we were making something special.”

The Japanese actor also underscored the film’s role in changing the narrative of the portrayal of Asians in film by breaking stereotypes set by performances such as Mickey Rooney’s portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi in the 1961 classic film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

“Before ‘The Last Samurai,’ there was this stereotype of Asian people with glasses, bucked teeth and a camera,” continued Watanabe. “It was stupid, but after [‘The Last Samurai’] came out, Hollywood tried to be more authentic when it came to Asian stories.”

More from NextShark: Live-action 'Mega Man' movie being developed by Netflix

Following his performance in “The Last Samurai”, Watanabe has played supporting roles in big-budget blockbusters like “Batman Begins” and Inception." He plays the lead role in the HBO-max crime drama series “Tokyo Vice.”

Featured image via The Last Samurai

More from NextShark: Godzilla battles Smog Monster Hedorah in special kaiju battle film for his 67th birthday

Enjoy this content? Read more from NextShark!

Arden Cho rejects 'Teen Wolf' revival role because she was offered 'half' the pay given to her costars