Iconic Japanese actor and director Kitano Takeshi has filed suit against Bandai Namco Arts, a member of the Bandai Namco media group, for copyright violation, the Daily Shincho paper revealed in its latest issue, which hit newsstands on Thursday.
According to the exclusive report, which has been circulated widely in the Japanese media, Kitano made the complaint to the Tokyo District Court on Feb. 10 of this year, filing in his own name as the plaintiff.
Bandai’s relationship with Kitano goes back to the start of his three-decade career as a director, with the company both investing in most of his films and distributing them on physical media. In his suit, Kitano claims that he was not compensated for scripting and directing a total fifteen films, including his 1997 Venice Golden Lion winner “Hana-bi” and his 2003 hit period actioner “Zatoichi,” while Bandai exploited his work without his permission.
Bandai countered to the magazine that the funds for the disputed Kitano films came from “production committees” of multiple companies that negotiated with, not Kitano himself, but his then production company, Office Kitano. Complicating matters, Kitano left Office Kitano late in 2018 over a dispute with its longtime president and producer Mori Masayuki and launched his own company T.N Gon.
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Bandai has said it will pay Kitano royalties for the rights it acquired from him after December 2018, when Kitano made the corporate switch. Kitano has so far refrained from public comment about the suit.
The director is currently busy with his new film “Neck” (aka “Kubi”), a period drama starring Nishijima Hidetoshi that is his first directorial effort since his 2017 gang actioner “Outrage Coda.” The date of release and distributor have not yet been announced.