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Watanabe starrer lifts off in Japan

Film to be released next fall

TOKYO — Ken Watanabe will star in Kadokawa Pictures’ “Shizumanu taiyo” (The Sun That Doesn’t Set), based on the story of a real-life 1985 plane crash that caused 520 deaths — the most in Japanese aviation history.

The pic, set to be released next fall, has a reported budget of $20 million-plus, making it a major release for the Japanese biz.

Watanabe, who has worked mostly in Hollywood since starring in “The Last Samurai” in 2003, will play the head of an airline union.

The helmer is Setsuro Wakamatsu, a TV veteran whose biggest feature credit is the 2000 hit action-adventure “Whiteout.”

Script is based on a novel about the crash of Japan Airlines Flight 173 by Toyoko Yamasaki. 

A previous pic based on the novel planned by Toei and Daiei was shelved due to opposition from the local airline biz. The new movie is proceeding without airline cooperation.

Filming is skedded to start in January, with shoots in New York, Iran and Kenya as well as Japan.

Another pic about Flight 173, Masato Harada’s “Climber’s High,” was a hit for distrib Toei this year, earning $12 million.

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