The samurai who brought a Mexican film to the Oscars
Actor Toshiro Mifune played Ánimas Trujano in one of the best films in the history of the country. This is how one of "Seven Samurai" became 'The Important Man.'
It happened when Pedro Infante, the mythical actor, and singer, died (1957), a short time before embodying a tailor-made role: the violent and alcoholic Ánimas Trujano, an indigenous man from Oaxaca (Mexico) who wanted to be a steward in his village, but his poverty leads him into a spiral of destruction.
The person in charge of directing the film was Ismael Rodriguez (1917), one of the best-known filmmakers of the golden age of Mexican cinema who had shot "Nosotros los pobres" (1948) and "Tizoc" (1958), both set in the city, and wanted to give a twist to the script and tell a rural story that happened in an indigenous community with poverty, shootings, and tequila in equal parts.
Akira Kurosawa's actor, Toshiro Mifune, had been overwhelmed with foreign offers since he starred in "The Seven Samurai" and "Rashomon", but he chose the Mexican role of "Ánimas Trujano. El Hombre Importante" because he found the character to be strong and brave.
At a conference organized during the shooting of the film, which premiered in 1961, Mifune was receptive to the press. A reporter with the pseudonym "Pajarito Indiscreto" in the newspaper El Universal, remembered:
"He addressed all the metropolitan journalists in a kind of picturesque speech, brief and funny, in a very special Spanish, sprinkled with Japanese expressions."
"He's a man who is in his forties, tall, dark, with long, thick mustaches and a thin beard. He looks like a real Mexican who lives in Oaxaca," he wrote.
El Universal also referred to the difficulties Toshiro Mifune had had in shooting since he did not speak Spanish and had to learn all the dialogues by heart. Finally, the director did not find his accent credible and was dubbed by fellow actor Narciso Busquets, who made the plot sound more convincing.
Then something unexpected happened: "Ánimas Trujano" became the second Mexican film to be nominated for an Oscar for Best International Picture and also won a Golden Globe for its cinematography.
After the thunderous victory of "Parasites" in this 92nd edition of the Oscars, fragments of the film have circulated again in Youtube remembering the mythical Asian actor who once tried to learn Spanish and who with his long mustache looked like "a real Mexican".