Akira Kurosawa was one of the world’s most influential film directors. Many great film directors, from Martin Scorsese to George Lucas, have named Akira Kurosawa as an influence. He not only directed his films in a passionate and meticulous manner, but he also edited, wrote or co-wrote most of his films.
Akira Kurosawa was born in Tokyo on 23 March 1910. The youngest of eight children, his education in art and films came early. As a talented painter, Kurosawa gained entrance to an art school, as well as to a small art group. One of the biggest influences in the young Kurosawa's life was his elder brother Heigo, a film narrator for foreign films. Heigo's suicide had a profound effect on Kurosawa.
At the age of 20, Akira Kurosawa became a film director’s assistant, and he was directing and writing sequences for films within five years. At the age of 33, he directed his first film, Judo Saga (Sanshiro Sugata), a martial arts film with some brilliantly creative set pieces. From his first film, people were beginning to talk about Akira Kurosawa as a brilliant young film director.
Kurosawa’s first work to capture the attention of the Western world was Rashomon. The film won top prizes at the 1951 Venice Film Festival, as well as a prize for best foreign film. The West welcomed Kurosawa with open arms. His films had a stylistic approach with passionate characters and a depth of emotion.
One of Kurosawa's most famous films, Seven Samurai, was remade as The Magnificent Seven, starring Steve McQueen and Yul Brynner. The lone lead character of Kurosawa's film Yojimbo was the inspiration behind Clint Eastwood's man with no name character in the Italian western films. George Lucas based the film Star Wars on the plotline of Kurosawa's film Hidden Fortress.
From 1965 onwards, Akira Kurosawa entered a period that saw much of his work unfinished or aborted. In 1970, the lack of success of his film Dodeska-den led to an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Had the attempt been successful, Kurosawa would not have gone on to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1975 for Dersu Uzala. Not only did this film help Kurosawa recover in the four years it took to make, but it also won him a gold medal at the Moscow film festival.
Akira Kurosawa was to win many more awards for his films. At the age of 79, he won an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. In 1982, he published his memoirs, called Something Like an Autobiography. Akira Kurosawa died at the age of 88 in 1998.