Since the 1950s, Seizo Fukumoto has been a fixture of seemingly any Japanese production involving samurai. However, you probably wouldn’t recognize his face as he tends to be given the role of “guy who gets killed.” Although he has occasionally taken work outside of period pieces, his constant roles as “soon-to-be-dead guy #2” has earned him the industry title: The Man Who Was Slashed 50,000 Times.
Having enjoyed a long and bloody career in cinema slightly off center-stage, Fukumoto has finally been given his chance at a starring role in Uzumasa Limelight, a new film hitting Japanese theatres this summer.
For those who don’t regularly watch samurai productions or those who do and never noticed Seizo Fukumoto, his most internationally famous role was the guy who constantly stood behind Tom Cruise in 2003’s The Last Samurai. Here he is in the trailer.
And here he is during the sword training scene.
Now Fukumoto is finally taking center stage in his most recent film, Uzumasa Limelight, which takes its name from the Charlie Chaplin 1952 classic Limelight and also seems to follow its plot to some extent. Fukumoto plays Seichi Kamiyama, an aging actor working in Toei Uzumasa Studios, Kyoto. Much like the real-life Fukumoto, for most of his career Kamiyama has been typecast as a guy who takes a sword to the midsection and falls in agony.
As the film progresses, Kamiyama takes Satsuki, a young actress, under his wing because she reminds him of great starlets in his past. He teaches her the art of sword fighting which gives her an edge over her competition and sets her on the path to stardom. However, by the time Satsuki achieves her own starring role in a television series, Kamiyama has retired. She decides to pull him back in front of the camera once again, only this time as her co-star, giving him the limelight he deserves…The movie’s plot sounds like it could be based on the real life of “The Man Who Was Slashed 50,000 Times”, doesn’t it?
The role of Satsuki is played by Chihiro Yamamoto, a Wushu champion out of Kobe City who earned a lot of acclaim online where she’s often referred to as Kung Fu Shojo.
Fukumoto was humble when asked how he felt about his first starring role saying, “I received the undeserved honor of my first starring role. It’s a heavy responsibility, but I’d like to thank all the people personally and professionally who stood behind me and let me do my work safely. All I can say is ‘thank you.’”
Uzumasa Limelight opens in the Kansai area (Kyoto, Kobe, Osaka) on 14 June and nationwide on 12 July. As both a class-act and man who has more than paid his dues in the film industry, we congratulate Seizo Fukumoto and wish him success in his first starring role.