“We’re just so sick of that scene”: Hiroyuki Sanada’s Shōgun is a Direct Response to Matt Damon’s White Savior Box-Office Bomb

With Shōgun, Hiroyuki Sanada has ensured that Asian characters will not play second fiddle to their White counterparts in Hollywood.

“We’re just so sick of that scene”: Hiroyuki Sanada’s Shōgun is a Direct Response to Matt Damon’s White Savior Box-Office Bomb

SUMMARY

  • Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada plays a samurai warrior in FX’s 'Shōgun' which he has produced as well.
  • Along with showrunners Justin Marks and Rachel Konda, the star hoped to make Asian characters take centerstage while erasing the ‘White savior’ syndrome in Hollywood.
  • Sanada believed that Shōgun allowed him to embrace his roots and culture which he was unable to do despite being in many high-profile Hollywood films.
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For too long, Hollywood films set against an Asian backdrop have succumbed to the stereotypical portrayal of the ‘White savior’ eclipsing the significance and value of an Asian character. Matt Damon’s 2016 film The Great Wall was a major culprit in propagating this viewpoint, with the Oscar winner himself regretting being part of such a narrative.

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Shogun
Hiroyuki Sanada in Shōgun

This is the kind of prejudiced portrayal that FX’s Shōgun wanted to avoid. The samurai show stars accomplished Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada as the central protagonist who has also doubled up as the producer for the project. Showrunners Justin Marks and Rachel Kondo were keenly aware of the clichéd roles that actors like Sanada were subjected to, and wanted to right this wrong with this series.

Hiroyuki Sanada’s Shōgun Aims To Give Asian Characters Their Due

Shōgun is a sweeping samurai series which released on FX on 27th February, 2024. Set in 1600s Japan, the show based on a novel of the same name by James Clavell, stars veteran Japanese actor and producer Hiroyuki Sanada in the central role. The main aim of the series according to showrunners Justin Marks and Rachel Kondo, is to erase the unfair stereotypes associated with Asian characters in Hollywood.

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The Great Wall
Hiroyuki Sanada’s Shōgun aims to right the wrongs done by ‘White savior’ films like The Great Wall

Sanada himself has starred in films like The Last Samurai where his kimono-clad character has merged into the background while Tom Cruise has played the quintessential ‘White savior’ of the masses. This was just one example of many instances where Asian characters have been seen as inspiring role models to white characters who have then proceeded to appropriate their cultural identity.

With Shōgun, Sanada, Marks, and Kondo were adamant that this narrative must be changed. In an interview with Inverse before the release of the show, Marks elaborated on the images of Asian roles that irked him no end.

“One of the cliches we wanted to get around is the classic scene of putting a stranger in a strange land, putting a weapon into that character’s hand. We’re just so sick of that scene.”

Sanada too concurred while looking back at the numerous roles he had done throughout his career that did not give him the space to explore nuances beyond the given brief. Shōgun looks to be a fitting answer to ‘White savior’ projects like Matt Damon’s The Great Wall which was a prime example of this stereotype by Damon’s own admission.

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Why Hiroyuki Sanada Deserves Shōgun

A cursory look at Japanese star Hiroyuki Sanada’s filmography will reveal that the actor has been part of some high-profile Hollywood projects including The Last Samurai, Lost, John Wick: Chapter 4, and Avengers: Endgame. Yet in all these films, Sanada’s character has rarely been fleshed out beyond the obvious Asian generic markers that defined the roles.

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A still from Hiroyuki Sanada’s Shōgun

With FX’s Shōgun, the accomplished actor is finally getting to embrace his roots and culture through a sweeping samurai narrative. Showrunners Justin Marks and Rachel Condo believed that Sanada’s worth needed to be recognized, and brought him on board as the producer. Speaking to Inverse about the unfair hand he was dealt thus far, Marks said,

You’re talking about an actor who, for the last 25 years in the United States, has been kind of this surrogate or a default ambassador to his own culture,”

Sanada too believed that it was important for him to share his roots with audiences, which led him to accept the role of producer with open arms. Through his inputs, the actor wished to inspire the next generation of Asian artists to be vigilant about their place in the industry.

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Shōgun is streaming on Hulu, and broadcasts on FX.

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Written by Sharanya Sankar

Articles Published: 995

Sharanya Sankar, Writer for Fandomwire
Having completed her Masters degree in Journalism and Mass Communication, Sharanya has a solid foundation in writing which is also one of her passions. She has worked previously with Book My show for a couple of years where she gained experience reviewing films and writing feature articles. Sharanya’s articles on film and pop culture have also been published on Film Companion, a popular film-based website. Apart from movies and pop culture, her interests include music and sports. She has contributed over 650 articles to Fandomwire so far.