47 RONIN director Carl Rinsch fired from the production. Universal Studios assume control

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Well, that certainly escalated quickly. Just a month ago we brought you word that the new samurai epic directed by relative newcomer Carl Rinsch, 47 Ronin, was going to have its release date pushed back from November 2012 to December 2013 to allow for some reshoots and work on its 3D effects. That on its own, already didn’t bode well.

But The Wrap brings word that now that the reshoots are done, Rinsch has been booted out of the editing room, with Universal co-chairwoman Donna Langley assuming control.

Rinsch was a popular commercials director who had previously just done the acclaimed short film The Gift, but was considered Ridley Scott’s protege (and possible son-in-law) and was even at one point tapped by Scott to direct the Alien prequel that would eventually become Scott’s own Prometheus. According to the reports, this resume is what prompted Universal to hire him for the tentpole movie, and in pre-production he was doing swimmingly, but once things got underway he “buckled under the pressure of the ambitious shoot.”

The Wrap’s source also claim that the production’s budget has ballooned from an initially estimated $175 million to $225 million.

It also didn’t help that Rinsch then also decided to give more screen time to the production’s unknown Japanese actors (In a Japanese samurai movie? No!) rather than its one recognizable star in the form of Keanu Reeves. Personally, I actually applaud him for that move, but the studios were not so positive about his cut of the film, ordering the reshoots to have Reeves’ character Kai now fight a supernatural creature in the movie’s climactic battle – which he was originally not supposed to be a part of –  as well as “a love scene, close-ups, and individual lines” to increase Reeves’ screen presence.

There is some Director’s Guild of America regulation though that states “that if a director completes physical production he must also take part in the reshoots.” With those reshoots completed in London last week, Universal now made official what they had technically already been doing for the last month and took over the film completely.

After taking a box office pounding with Battleship earlier in the year due to its bloated budget and middling box office returns (also, you know, the fact that the movie sucked), Universal could not afford to have another film’s budget perhaps cause them another huge loss. So to stop the cost from increasing even further, they’ve halted production on a lot of the film’s unfinished VFX work, shrunk the staff considerably, and will now only focus on finishing the scenes that they deem are worthy of their final cut.

While the casting of Reeves in an adaptation of one of Japan’s most popular samurai tales – which saw a group of 18th century warriors avenging the death of their master – was always a bit of a headscratcher for me from a creative standpoint, I was still really looking forward to this, especially with all the hype that surrounded Rinsch.

To be fair, there’s no guarantee that the studio’s involvement would not improve on the film, but judging from past experiences where execs took over a production, 47 Ronin probably just committed seppuku.

Last Updated: September 21, 2012

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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