“It’s actually quite the opposite”: Shogun Star Believes Tom Cruise’s The Last Samurai Owes a Lot to Hit HBO Series Despite Releasing 21 Years Prior

Michaela Clavell claimed that Shogun has inspired multiple modern movies as well!

Shogun and Tom Cruise the last samurai


  • James Clavell's Shogun was released back in 1975, and traced the life of John Blackthorne.
  • Her daughter, executive producer of the Shogun miniseries, claimed that multiple movies owe a lot to her father's book.
  • This includes Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai, as well as Hugh Jackman's 2013 movie, The Wolverine.
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James Clavell’s 1975 novel Shogun chronicled feudal Japan in the 1600s. It delved into a historic retelling of how English sailor John Blackthorne ended up trapped on the shores of Japan after an unfortunate shipwreck. Thrust into the unknown political landscape of the country, Blackthorne’s character represented one of the first instances of a troupe which has since become extremely common in Hollywood.


When a capable hero is left trapped in a completely unknown world with no help or support, they must learn on the go and do whatever it takes in order to survive. With Shogun recently receiving a mini-series via FX and Hulu, her daughter and executive producer of the project, Michaella Clavell, recently talked about the various ways in which her father’s novel inspired even projects such as Hugh Jackman’s The Wolverine and Tom Cruise’s The Last Samurai, despite being released decades earlier.

Michaella Clavell identifies similarities between Shogun and The Last Samurai

Shogun released in February 2024. | Hulu

2013’s The Wolverine delved into the character in the aftermath of him killing Jean Grey. Living in Yukon, Canada, Hugh Jackman’s character is thrust into Japan where he must fight the Yakuza, and most notably, The Silver Samurai.


In Tom Cruise’s The Last Samurai, the actor plays the role of former Army Captain Nathan Algrenm. Algrenm is also thrust into Japan where he must train the Imperial Japanese Army in their bid to defeat a samurai-headed rebellion. The movie, set in 1876, follows the same troupe, which Michaella described as that of the ‘’stranger in a strange land,’ according to Times Entertainment

I think ultimately in the stories (The Wolverine and The Last Samurai) that you mentioned, the ‘stranger in a strange land’, owes so much to the silhouette of Shogun. When you read the book, you realize that it’s actually this multi-layered exploration of the three leads and tells their story. Shogun is not a story of a European who comes to a foreign land and teaches everyone a thing or two and changes the way things are. It’s actually quite the opposite.

A still from The Last Samurai. | Warner Bros.

Hence, Clavell explained that rather than being a story of straight-up heroism, Shogun in truth traces Japanese culture and is not a simplistic take on the Western point of view:

I think it’s a complex look at the culture. It’s not an over-simplistic dismissal Western point of view of the culture. His curiosity led him to be an explorer of the human psyche throughout different periods of history and he gave each character full embodiment.

Thus, not only does Michaella believe that Shogun deserves more credit than it has received, she is of the opinion that multiple projects that came even years later have something to thank her father for.


James Clavell’s Shogun is a historic retelling delving into heroism and politics

A still from Shogun | Hulu

Inspired by true historical events, James Clavell’s novel continues to be a landmark take on human behavior and feudal Japanese culture. The novel in itself delved into how Japan was wrongly viewed as being somewhat ‘inferior’ by Western countries.

The character of John Blackthorne is thrust into an unknown culture which ends up teaching him a plethora of lessons. While he initially appears utterly rigid, Blackthorne eventually learns the ways, the language, and the traditions of Feudal Japan. He is thrust into a political struggle through which he must traverse carefully in order to survive, and begins to appreciate Japanese culture. According to Michaela Clavell, Shogun delves into some important questions:

What effect can we really have on a culture that we don’t belong to? What is heroism? Honestly, when we come to it, these are the questions that I think are worth asking again.

She added, in reference to her father:


He was just such a good storyteller that comes through. It comes through simply in a very complex way in many layers. And that’s how he brought that to life.

Of course, Michaela will be hoping that the mini-series continues to do justice to the epic story that her father wrote. The Shogun miniseries released on Hulu and Fx on February 27, 2024, with no update yet being released for a sequel.


Written by Rishabh Bhatnagar

Articles Published: 16

Rishabh Bhatnagar is an Entertainment and pop culture journalist/editor with Fandom Wire. He has more than 6 years of experience working for multiple major platforms and is himself an avid consumer of worthwhile content. A natural storyteller, Rishabh has a unique way with words and is always looking to improve, as a storyteller, writer, and a journalist.