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Japan helmer makes Eastern oater

Miike pic 'Sukiyaki' will be shot in English with Japanese cast

TOKYO — Takashi Miike, best known abroad for his extreme horror and yakuza pics, including “Audition,” “Ichi the Killer” and “One Missed Call,” is looking to the American West for his next, “Sukiyaki Western Django.”

Scripted by longtime collaborator Masa Nakamura, pic revolves around the struggle between two gangs to takeover a 19th century Japanese frontier town.

All-star cast includes Kaori Momoi (“Memoirs of a Geisha”), Koichi Sato (“Starfish Hotel”), Masanobu Ando (“Big Bang Love: Juvenile A”), Yusuke Iseya (“Memories of Matsuko”), Hideaki Ito (“Umizaru 2 — Test of Trust”) and, in a guest spot, Quentin Tarantino.

Dialogue is in English, a rarity in the Japanese biz, though Miike shot his 2006 horror “Imprint” in English.

Filming will wrap by early December; Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan will release next summer.

Production partners on the ¥800 million ($6.8 million) pic are SPEJ, Sedic Intl., Geneon Entertainment, Dentsu, TV Asahi, Shogakkan and A Team. Overseas sales may be handled by Sony, but a final decision has yet to be made.

Inspired by the spaghetti Westerns of the 1960s, Akira Kurosawa’s classic “Yojimbo” and the 12th century feud between the Heike and Genji clans that has generated dozens of stories, plays and pics in Japan, “Django” is a freeform amalgam of East and West.

The 19th-century Japanese town where the action unfolds — an open set built in the hills of northern Yamagata Prefecture — is a jumble of buildings in Western and Japanese styles that exist only in art director Nao Sasaki’s imagination.

The interior of the saloon features a buffalo head, cattle horns and other Western memorabilia on the walls, but the huge painting of an eagle behind the stage could have come straight from a shogun’s castle.

The costumes, by Michiko Kitamura, also mix East and West, with Hideaki Ito’s gunman-for-hire dressed like a character from “Deadwood,” complete with a wide-brimmed black hat, while Koichi Sato’s Heike gang leader looks like a videogame version of a samurai warrior, down to his red hair and blood-spattered breast plate.

Why an Eastern Western?

“My father was a big fan of spaghetti Westerns — I used to enjoy watching them with him on TV when I was a kid,” Miike told at press conference held in the town saloon. “I’ve long wanted to make a Western of my own.”

But instead of a retro genre tribute, Miike told reporters he wanted to do something “that defies common sense, that’s anti-Hollywood.” Thus the decision to cast Tarantino, “who is trying to change Hollywood,” he explained.

Pic is Miike’s latest frontal assault on the international market.

His last was “Imprint,” which was skedded to air on Showtime as part of its Masters of Horror series by well-known horror helmers but was pulled when Showtime execs judged it too extreme.

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