The Last Samurai: With the winter wind rushing madly across the red carpet, star after star emerged yesterday to attend the New York premiere of Edward Zwick's historical epic, The Last Samurai. Fortunately, MovieWeb was there with earmuffs and gloves to cover the event and bring you a few words with the film's star, Mr. Tom Cruise, as well as director Edward Zwick and producer Marshall Herskovitz.

Edward Herskovitz

On the film's historical accuracy:

So much effort was put into this from the very beginning. We established various liaisons with people in Japan and academics in the United States. We had advisors at every level. We had our screenplay translated into Japanese by two different people and then reworked by our Japanese actors. We had cultural advisors on the set all the time. We took it seriously because you don't want to start talking about Japanese history and get it wrong. That's just shooting yourself in the foot. The movie attempts to be respectful to the actual history of the Samurai. It's a fictional film, but it's set against a real historical period, and we wanted to get those historical details right.

On working with Tom Cruise:

It's funny. It's hard to find the right words. He is an incredible gentleman. He has an incredible work ethic. He comes to the job everyday happy to be there, grateful for the gifts that he has. He's the most polite performer that I've ever worked with. To everybody. It was kind of a revelation frankly. I don't want to put it too strongly, but I think that he has a lot to teach other people in the film business, because someone of that power, who attends to the work at hand and tries to make the film great, instead of his own ego, is a remarkable thing.

Marshall Zwick

On the appeal of the Samurai:

The Samurai inspire something. There's an idealization of a code of values and behavior, of honor and integrity, which is all in short supply.

On the appeal of the film:

This is why people go to the movies; to travel a distance in their imagination, in their heart, and to give themselves over to something, to surrender.

Tom Cruise

On Japan:

I traveled around a lot of Japan and every place you go you see different things and meet different people, find different beliefs and cultures. And I enjoyed, so much, the time I spent learning about the Asian cultures. I also had to go back and revisit the Civil War, because my character was from that time period. And I like doing stuff like that, to see how other people lived. It's very enriching.

On film:

For me, as a kid, there was a re-release of Lawrence of Arabia. I was about seven years old and I was at a drive-in, in my parents' station wagon, looking up at the Sahara Desert. And I thought to myself, "Is there really a place like that? Do these people really exist?" Film is an experience. It'll take you to another time, another place, which is its magic, really.

- By Chris Monfette

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