With Star Wars: The Force Awakens coming out just two weeks from today, many fans may be re-watching the original Star Wars films to get ready for this new adventure, set 32 years after Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi. The 1977 classic that started it all, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, was heavily influenced by the classic Westerns that director George Lucas loved, but he also found inspiration in the films of iconic director Akira Kurosawa and his longtime star Toshirô Mifune. During a an event in Japan to announce Tokyo Comic Con, The Hollywood Reporter reveals that George Lucas offered Toshirô Mifune the iconic roles of both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. Here's what the actor's daughter, Mika Mifune, had to say at the event.
"I heard from my father that he was offered the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, but he was concerned about how the film would look and that it would cheapen the image of samurai, on which George Lucas had based a lot of the character and fighting style. At the time, sci-fi movies still looked quite cheap as the effects were not advanced and he had a lot of samurai pride. So then, there was talk about him taking the Darth Vader role as his face would be covered, but in the end he turned that down too."
The story of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope was largely inspired by Akira Kurosawa's 1960 classic The Hidden Fortress, which starred Toshirô Mifune. The story centers on a princess and a general who are being lead through enemy territory by two peasants, who don't know their true identities. The princess hopes to use the gold in her caravan to rebuild her empire, with the help of these two unwitting men.
If Toshirô Mifune had been brought on board as the now-iconic Obi-Wan Kenobi or Darth Vader , the film's lightsaber fights may have taken on an entirely different look, but we'll never know for sure. While Darth Vader's physical presence and fighting style may have been significantly different had Toshirô Mifune played the villain, the iconic voice provided by James Earl Jones would have certainly remained the same. It's still an intriguing tidbit to ponder, though, as we get ready for Star Wars: The Force Awakens to hit theaters.
Toshirô Mifune is best known for starring in Akira Kurosawa classics Seven Samurai, Rashomon and Yojimbo. The actor and director collaborated on 17 different movies together, but George Lucas wouldn't have been the first American filmmaker he worked with. Toshirô Mifune also starred in American films such as Steven Spielberg's 1941, John Frankenheimer's Grand Prix and Jack Smight's Midway. Would you have liked to see Toshirô Mifune as Obi-Wan Kenobi?