The screenplay by Nobel and Booker Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of The Day) is an English-language adaptation of the 1952 classic Ikiru, written by Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni.
Stephen Woolley and Elizabeth Karlsen’s Number 9 Films (Carol) will produce. The plan is to shoot on location in the UK next spring and Rocket Science is handling sales and will be selling ahead of and at next month’s virtual AFM.
The film has been developed with and will be funded by Film4 and Ingenious Media, in association with Kurosawa Productions, with executive producer Ko Kurosawa. Oscar-nominated Fiona Crombie (The Favourite) has come on board as production designer.
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Set in 1952 London, the film will follow Williams, a veteran civil servant, who has become a small cog in the bureaucracy of rebuilding post-WWII England. As endless paperwork piles up on his desk, he learns he has a fatal illness. Thus begins his quest to find some meaning to his seemingly grey, monotonous life before it slips away.
He first attempts, with limited success, to throw himself into debauchery during a wild night in Brighton in the company of a bohemian writer he befriends there. Then, arriving back in London, he ignores family and work responsibilities for days on end. But soon he becomes intrigued by Margaret, a young co-worker in his office, who appears to exemplify exactly what life and living is – and what may so far have passed him by. As their friendship grows, she – inadvertently – shows him a way to face down his mortality; how to harness his years of experience and dedication into a final supreme effort to push through, against all odds, a modest, much-delayed project for children in a poor district of East London.
BAFTA-nominated Ikiru starred Kurosawa regular Takashi Shimura and played at the Tokyo and Berlin Film Festivals.
Kazuo Ishiguro said: “The inner story suggests that it’s the responsibility of each of us to bring meaning and satisfaction to our life. That even against the odds, we should try to find a way to be proud of, and happy with, the lives we lead. I believe this story can speak to the many of us obliged to spend long hours each day anchored to desks and screens – all the more so in this era of Covid – struggling to see what our individual contributions can possibly amount to within the broader picture.”
Director Oliver Hermanus added: “At the heart of Living is the message that one’s purpose, one’s footprint can be incremental, slight and somewhat unnoticeable in the grand scheme of things. But that these attainable efforts to help others and be a force of good in the world are what life and living is about. I think the world could use more stories like this, perhaps now more than ever before.”
“The notion of teaming Japan’s greatest internationally renowned filmmaker, Kurosawa, with their greatest living author, Ishiguro, coupled with the tremendously talented Oliver Hermanus, is a producer’s dream. This is a film about how a small act can become a momentous event, and Bill Nighy’s charm, wit and gravitas is perfect to spearhead the film, culminating in a tiny but epic gesture, which seems not only apt but crucially important for our current turbulent times,” commented Stephen Woolley and Elizabeth Karlsen.
Ishiguro’s new book, Klara and the Sun, will be published by Faber & Faber on 2nd March, 2021.
Nighy is repped by CAA and Markham, Froggatt & Irwin. Curtis Brown. Aimee Lou Wood is repped by Independent Talent. Oliver Hermanus is repped by Independent Talent. RCW Literary Agency and ICM rep Kazuo Ishiguro. Kurosawa Productions are legally represented by James Finney Media Law.