Seven Samurai’s Rights Took A Complicated Route From Akira Kurosawa To The Magnificent Seven


Initially, the American remake rights to “Seven Samurai” were owned by a screenwriter named Lou Morheim who wrote the scripts for films like “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms,” and TV shows like “The Outer Limits,” “The Big Valley,” and “Rawhide.” He would also eventually serve as an executive producer on the project. It was Morheim who pitched the Western “Seven Samurai” idea to actor Anthony Quinn as a potential vehicle. Quinn was so taken with the idea that, just like the villagers in the movie itself, he began trekking around Hollywood looking for other team members to join him. Quinn pitched Morheim’s idea to Yul Brynner, a hot commodity after the successes of “The King and I” and “The Ten Commandments,” both from 1956. 

Brynner also loved the idea and somehow wrested it away from Quinn, deciding to make the film on his own terms. Brynner took the lead role and began developing a script with producer Walter Mirisch. It was during this phase of production that the original samurai were transformed into untrustworthy ex-gunfighters and that the film would be shot in widescreen technicolor on a budget of $2 million (a modest $20 million in 2022 dollars). Cinemascope had only been introduced to the public with “The Robe” in 1953, so the format was still something of a novelty. 

Lovell, in an interview on the Cinemadope website, tells the story of how Mirisch sold a Western “Seven Samurai” to United Artists. Mirisch, the story goes, arranged a screening of Kurosawa’s movie on the studio lot with other UA executives and producers. Mirisch recalls everyone in the room having a grand experience translating the classic into Western terms in real time. It was a pitch meeting by way of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” 



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