Shinichiro Watanabe Spills the Tea on the Live-Action Cowboy Bebop, The Animatrix
posted on by Kim Morrissy
In a candid career interview with Forbes, Cowboy Bebop director Shinichiro Watanabe revealed some interesting things about his experiences working with Hollywood.
Firstly, Watanabe clarified the amount of involvement he had in Netflix's live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop: Practically none. Although Watanabe is officially credited as a consultant, he has not actually watched a single episode of the show from start to finish. "They sent me a video to review and check. It started with a scene in a casino, which made it very tough for me to continue. I stopped there and so only saw that opening scene. It was clearly not Cowboy Bebop."
Watanabe then continued that he realized that it would not be Cowboy Bebop unless he became more involved. He chose not to do this, although he does wonder if maybe he should have. He added that on the positive side, the original anime seems to have more value nowadays.
The latter half of the interview addresses Watanabe's work on The Animatrix anthology anime, where he described an extended interaction with a Hollywood producer called Spencer Lamm. Watanabe described Lamm as a person who made many "stupid requests." Watanabe said that he had a particular problem with Lamm acting as the gatekeeper to the Wachowskis and would not let Watanabe's ideas through to the original creators for approval unless he liked them personally.
Watanabe said that their relationship was so poor that when he went to Los Angeles for the recording sessions that "if I saw that producer, I would just punch him in the face." Lamm ended up not showing up to the recordings, which Watanabe described as "unheard of." Lamm worked as executive producer on Matrix-related short "Final Flight of the Osiris" and producer on The Animatrix in 2003, according to IMDb. His other credits include website design.
Watanabe said that he had to concede on some of his original ideas when working on The Animatrix, but the experience taught him how to deal with difficult people. Amusingly, he remarked that when he now deals with interfering people, his strategy is to "send back very small corrections or adjustments just before the deadline."
Speaking generally about his relationship with Hollywood, Watanabe said that Japanese and American producers aren't that different, and he's had positive experiences with American producers. Nowadays, he gets many offers from America with budgets "almost double" compared to offers in Japan. Still, the issue of maintaining creative freedom on his projects remains at the front of his mind.
"If you work with a Hollywood producer, you have to fight. Otherwise, you will be unable to represent what you want to do."
Watanabe directed such notable anime productions as Cowboy Bebop, Macross Plus, Samurai Champloo, Space Dandy, Carole & Tuesday, and Terror in Resonance. He also directed the "Blade Runner: Black Out 2022" anime short.
He directed the A Detective Story and Kid's Story episodes of The Animatrix anthology series, which debuted in 2003.
Netflix debuted the first season of the live-action Cowboy Bebop in November 2021, but canceled it soon after in December 2021. The series starred John Cho as Spike, Mustafa Shakir as Jet, Daniella Pineda as Faye, Alex Hassell as Vicious, and Elena Satine as Julia. The Japanese dub included returning voice actors from the original anime's cast.
Source: Forbes (Ollie Barder)