Shinobu Hashimoto, the screenwriter whose work is credited as being among the most influential in film history, died Thursday of pneumonia at his Tokyo home, according to Japanese media reports. He was 100.
Hashimoto was the screenwriter for some of the most important films in Japanese history, including Rashomon and Seven Samurai from director Akira Kurosawa. Rashomon was his first work made into a film, and he went on to write nearly 80 scripts, including collaborations with such Japanese cinema giants as Kurosawa, Tadashi Imai, Mikio Naruse, Kihachi Okamoto and Masaky Kobayashi.
The Hashimoto story almost ended before it began. He enlisted in the Japanese army in 1938 but caught tuberculosis and spent four years in a veterans hospital. It was while hospitalized that a chance meeting with another Japanese veteran opened his eyes to a new world. He was given a magazine on Japanese cinema that included a sample screenplay. He quickly compiled something and sent it to Mansaku Itami, then considered Japan’s best screenwriter.
Itami was impressed, sending the young soldier a detailed critique of the work. He soon became a mentor for the budding screenwriter, but it was a short-lived relationship, as Itami died in 1946. Hashimoto vowed to follow his mentor’s final bit of advice and try to create a literary adaptation instead of an original screenplay.
He wrote an adaptation of a Ryunosuke Akutagawa short story, In a Grove, and sent it to Akira Kurosawa, was already established as a director but not yet a superstar. They met and decided the relatively short script, which told of discrepancies from people who had seen the same crime, could be lengthened by adding a second Akutagawa story, Rashomon.
The resulting screenplay went on to be considered one of the greatest of all time, winning Japan’s first international cinema prize , the Golden Lion, at the 1951 Venice Film Festival.
That was the start, and Hashimoto went on to pen many Kurosawa classics, including 1958’s The Hidden Fortress — a major influence on George Lucas in constructing the original Star Wars — Seven Samurai and the Harakiri, Japan’s Longest Day.
Hashimoto also directed three films during his long career.