Ken Watanabe Defends ‘Last Samurai’ Against White Savior Criticism of Tom Cruise: ‘I Didn’t Think of It Like That’

Ken Watanabe Defends ‘Last Samurai’ Against White Savior Criticism of Tom Cruise: ‘I Didn’t Think of It Like That’
Ken Watanabe is having the last word on “The Last Samurai.”

After the 2003 film, inspired by a true story, was criticized for perpetuating the white savior stereotype with Tom Cruise’s U.S. Army captain character Nathan Algren in the lead, Watanabe is now reflecting on the film almost two decades later.

“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.”

Watanabe earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Samurai leader Katsumoto who fights alongside Cruise’s prisoner of war to curb the Westernization of 19th century Japan. “The Last Samurai” is directed and co-produced by Edward Zwick, and is still one of Japan’s most successful box office hits to date landing 8.4 million in its opening weekend.

“Before ‘The Last Samurai,
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