Deadline reports that Lionsgate has contracted Highlander creator Gregory Widen to write Black Samurai, an action drama grounded in the historical tale of Yasuke, who’s said to be the first black samurai to serve a warlord in Japan. Mike De Luca and Stephen L’Heureux are producing the film as a co-production between Solipsist Films and De Luca Productions.
According to the report, Yasuke lived in the mid-1500s, and history on his origins and exactly how he came to work for warlord Oda Nobunaga varies widely. Widen said what is known is that he was the only known African to reach that rank in feudal Japan and it is a strong point of entry for a period action film that can build a compelling action narrative around history. Widen is no stranger to the genre, having created the mythology and co-writing the 1986 cult classic film Highlander, about an immortal Scottish swordsman. That movie lead to a series of films, along with a syndicated series.
None of the Japanese had seen a black-skinned person before, and Widen said they initially tried to scrub him, believing the color would come off his skin. Yasuke, conflicted about the violence of his past when he got to Japan, embraced samurai culture and became a useful warrior for the warlord, Widen said. “He became a samurai warrior,” Widen said. “They presented him with a blade, and he went to work.”
L’Heureux produced Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, and is producing with Jessica Chastain an adaptation of the Jimmy Palmiotti graphic novel Painkiller Jane, with Chastain playing the title character. L’Heureux is also partnering with De Luca on an adaptation of the vidgame franchise Metro 2033.