Shinji Higuchi to direct Hiroshi Abe in remake

Akira Kurosawa’s 1958 action comedy “The Hidden Fortress” (“Kakushi toride no san-akunin”) — said to be the inspiration for “Star Wars” — will be remade in Japan, producer and distrib Toho has announced.

The pic will be helmed by Shinji Higuchi, an SFX whiz also responsible for the hits “Lorelei” (2005) and last year’s “The Sinking of Japan” (Nihon chinbotsu).

Playing the Toshiro Mifune role of a general guiding a princess through enemy territory is Hiroshi Abe, a Hugh Grant-ish star who is branching out from romantic comedy to action roles.

Taking the Misa Uehara role of the princess is Masami Nagasawa, a film and TV star since her breakthrough in the 2004 megahit weepy “Crying Out Love, in the Center of the World” (Sekai no chushin de ai o sakebu).

In a departure from the original, the two bumbling peasants who attach themselves to the general and princess — and are the models for C-3PO and R2-D2 — will be combined into a single character, a mountain-dweller played by Jun Matsumoto, from boy band Arashi, who stars in hit TV drama “Hana yori dango” (Boys Over Flowers). Matsumoto has also appeared in pics, including 2004 hit “Tokyo Tower.”

Shooting starts Thursday and is skedded to wrap by the end of the year. Toho has slotted “The Hidden Fortress” for a May 10 release.

Also on the Toho line-up is “Subaki sanjuro,” a remake of the 1962 Kurosawa pic of the same title, starring Yuji Oda (“Bayside Shakedown”) in the Mifune role. Release is skedded for Dec. 1.

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