Ken Watanabe stars in film about Hayabusa space probe

Some details have been released regarding Toei’s movie about the Hayabusa space probe, tentatively titled “Shouwakusei Tansaki Hayabusa: Harukanaru Kikan.” The big-budget film will star actor Watanabe Ken (51) as a character modeled after Kawaguchi Junichiro, the project manager behind the Hayabusa probe. In addition, Watanabe will be serving as project manager for the movie itself, working with director Takimoto Tomoyuki (“Hannin ni Tsugu,” “Ikigami”).

Toei is pouring in 1.5 billion yen for the movie’s production, which includes building 3 life-sized models of the Hayabusa probe (about 6 meters long) under the guidance of JAXA. The studio Toei Animation will be doing CG work for the film.

The script for “Shouwakusei Tansaki Hayabusa” is originally based off a work by journalist Yamane Kazuma, but it also includes information from exclusive interviews with more than 50 people associated with the project. The story covers the challenges faced by the mission’s team over Hayabusa’s 7-year flight to the asteroid 25143 Itokawa and back, becoming the first mission to bring back an asteroid sample to Earth.

The probe, which successfully returned to Earth last year, is the subject of at least two other feature films, including one by 20th Century Fox starring actress Takeuchi Yuko.

The rest of the cast for “Shouwakusei Tansaki Hayabusa” will be announced in the near future. In order to learn the technical knowledge necessary for the film, the cast is conducting technical rehearsals until May 20, when the film begins shooting. In mid-July, they plan to shoot part of the movie overseas, and filming will wrap up at the end of that month.

Toei is aiming to complete post-production in December of this year, making the film ready for release in 2012.

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