The casting of Richard Gere as a Japanese-American in Akira Kurosawa's "Rhapsody in August" has been described as "far-fetched" by an Asian American actors group that has been sharply critical of the similar casting of a Caucasian in a Eurasian role in the Broadway musical "Miss Saigon."
The Assn. of Asian Pacific American Artists, in a statement today acknowledged that in the context of Japanese cinema, the casting of Gere constitutes 'non-traditional casting' "--a Caucasian actor playing a Japanese role." But, added spokeswoman Beulah Ku, "unfortunately, it (that type of casting) is not being reciprocated in America."
Ku said that AAPAA believes that Kurosawa, widely heralded as one of the world's leading film directors, "is giving a white actor an opportunity in Japan and he's doing something different. . . . Obviously (Gere got the part) because he is a star. He's a box-office hit."
Reached at Kirosawa Prods. in Yokohama today, the director's son, Hisao Kurasawa, explained the choice of Gere matter-of-factly: "We don't need someone who looks Japanese. The situation of the story calls for an American . . . so we chose Mr. Richard Gere."
A spokesman for the film's co-producer, Shochiku Co. Ltd. of Tokyo, said he believes that such choices "are all up to the director." He said Kirosawa tailored the script for Gere.