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On Set: Carl Rinsch's Ambitious Blockbuster '47 Ronin' Starring Keanu Reeves

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist November 4, 2013 at 12:00PM

Things that have happened in the two-and-a-half years since I was on the set of Universal's hopeful Christmas blockbuster "47 Ronin" in June 2011: A presidential election, a government shutdown, three fall TV seasons, four Marvel movies, two "Fast & Furious" movies, two "Paranormal Activity" movies, three World Series, one complete Kim Kardashian marriage (and another engagement), the release of three albums by One Direction, and one fully-achieved Matthew McConaughey comeback. I've moved house four times, I've fallen in and out of love at least once, I've left my full-time job at The Playlist, and one couple I'm friends with have conceived and given birth to two whole children. What I'm saying is, this has been a long time coming.
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47 Ronin, set visit

Things that have happened in the two-and-a-half years since I was on the set of Universal's hopeful Christmas blockbuster "47 Ronin" in June 2011: A presidential election, a government shutdown, three fall TV seasons, four Marvel movies, two "Fast & Furious" movies, two "Paranormal Activity" movies, three World Series, one complete Kim Kardashian marriage (and another engagement), the release of three albums by One Direction, and one fully-achieved Matthew McConaughey comeback. I've moved house four times, I've fallen in and out of love at least once, I've left my full-time job at The Playlist, and one couple I'm friends with have conceived and given birth to two whole children. What I'm saying is, this has been a long time coming.

"47 Ronin" had already been in development for some time when it went into production in the spring of 2011. The script by "Fast & Furious" mastermind Chris Morgan was snapped up by Universal in 2008, with Keanu Reeves attached to star, and the following year, it was announced it would be the feature debut of Carl Erik Rinsch, a commercials whizkid who was at one point set to direct the film that became "Prometheus" before his mentor (and father of one-time girlfriend Jordan Scott) Ridley Scott took over. But since then, it's been a rocky road: originally set for a November 2012 release, the film was pushed back to February 2013, and then delayed a further ten months, with a Christmas Day date now creeping up.

Amidst that time, there have been rumors of a troubled production: six months after being on set, I heard from a friend working on another project at Shepperton that the film was getting a whopping 6-8 weeks of reshoots (about the same as "World War Z" wound up receiving), possibly being directed by someone other than Rinsch. I dismissed it as idle gossip at the time, and it's likely that it was something of an exaggeration, but a few months later, The Hollywood Reporter went on record as saying that it had been "a tense, combative shoot" and that the $175 million budget had gone significantly over, with Rinsch kicking against studio control, "preferring to shoot every frame himself," and turning out something closer to a drama than an event movie.

The Wrap went further six months later, reporting "micromanaged" reshoots, and saying that the budget had risen to $225 million, and that the director had been "removed from the editing suite." Other reports denied any of this, saying that Rinsch will still in control, and that the film was still on track. However it turns out (and it would hardly be the first film rumored to have production troubles that turned out to be a huge hit—hello, "Titanic" and, yes, "World War Z"), the stories have undoubtedly tainted the film in the minds of some. But although everyone involved would obviously have been on their best behavior with press on set, it was far from chaos on the day I visited.

This article is related to: Features, 47 Ronin, Carl Erik Rinsch, Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rinko Kikuchi


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