Oscar® Nominee Ken Watanabe has Been Signed and a Top International Cast Including Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li, Michelle Yeoh, Youki Kudoh and Koji Yakusho are in Final Negotiations to Star in the Highly-Anticipated 'Memoirs of a Geisha' From Columbia Pictures /

Producers Doug Wick, Lucy Fisher, Steven Spielberg and Director Rob Marshall Announce Principal Casting for Ensemble Drama


Oscar® nominee Ken Watanabe ("The Last Samurai") has been signed and will be joined by a spectacular ensemble of international actors led by Zhang Ziyi ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), Gong Li ("Raise The Red Lantern"), Michelle Yeoh ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), Youki Kudoh ("Snow Falling on Cedars") and Koji Yakusho ("Shall We Dance?") who are in final negotiations to star in Columbia Pictures / DreamWorks Films / Spyglass Entertainment's feature film adaptation of "Memoirs of A Geisha" for Academy Award®-nominated director Rob Marshall, it was announced today by Matt Tolmach and Doug Belgrad, Co-Presidents of Production for Columbia Pictures, and producers Doug Wick, Lucy Fisher and Steven Spielberg.

Based on Arthur Golden's exotic and enthralling best-selling novel, "Memoirs of a Geisha" will begin production this September in Los Angeles and Japan. Written by Ron Bass, Akiva Goldsman and Robin Swicord, the film is produced by Wick, Fisher and Spielberg.

The primary cast was assembled after an exhaustive search, which began with several months in Japan and continued throughout Asia to find the perfect actor for each role.

"We could not be more excited about the extraordinary cast that we have in place for 'Memoirs of a Geisha,'" said Marshall. "We are adapting a beloved piece of literature that has become a worldwide sensation, which made it important to me to assemble a cast with a prestigious international profile. I cannot wait to begin production this fall."

"We are thrilled to be using this beautiful piece of literature as an opportunity to bring together some of the greatest actors in the world, and certainly the most distinguished team of Asian actors ever assembled for an American movie." said Wick and Fisher.

"From the time I first read Arthur Golden's novel, I wanted to see this as a film," Spielberg said. "It's a uniquely compelling story rich with characters who take you into a world you have never experienced before, and there is no one better than Rob Marshall to bring all the poetry and artistry of Arthur Golden's novel to movie theaters all over the world."

Heading the cast is Ken Watanabe, who received an Academy Award® nomination for "The Last Samurai" and is a top box office attraction in his native Japan. Watanabe will portray 'The Chairman,' the high-powered executive with whom the young geisha, Sayuri, falls in love. Watanabe who stars in the upcoming "Batman Begins," is also familiar to American audiences from the popular Japanese comedy "Tampopo."

Chinese-born actress Zhang Ziyi will portray Sayuri, the beautiful young orphan from a remote fishing village whose life changes forever when she is sent to the city to learn the ways of the geisha. Zhang Ziyi made an indelible impression on audiences around the world with her portrayal of the rebellious 'Jen Yu' in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." Her credits also include "Rush Hour 2," "Purple Butterfly" and the upcoming films "Hero," "2046" and "House of Flying Daggers."

"Memoirs of a Geisha" reunites Zhang Ziyi with her "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" co-star and sparring partner Michelle Yeoh, who will portray Mameha, the elegant and experienced geisha who becomes Sayuri's mentor. The Malaysian-born action star brought the fearless 'Shu Lien' character to life in Ang Lee's award-winning film, and was also featured in the James Bond film "Tomorrow Never Dies."

Another Chinese-born actress, Gong Li, will portray Sayuri's stunning and treacherous rival Hatsumomo. Gong Li achieved international celebrity in "Ju Dou," "Red Sorghum," "Raise the Red Lantern" and "Shanghai Triad," and other acclaimed films including "The Emperor and the Assassin," "Temptress Moon" and "Farewell My Concubine." Gong Li recently co-starred along side Zhang Ziyi in director Kar Wai Wong's soon-to-be-released "2046."

Rounding out the principal cast is Japanese actor Koji Yakusho ("Shall We Dance?") as Nobu, the brilliant but tragic businessman who seeks to become Sayuri's patron and another Japanese star Youki Kudoh ("Snow Falling on Cedars") as Pumpkin, Sayuri's closest friend since childhood who also struggles on the path to becoming a geisha.

"Memoirs of a Geisha" is also utilizing the talents of Liza Dalby, world-renowned geisha expert and author of many definitive works on the culture of the geisha, including "Geisha" and "Kimono," as consultant in the making of this film.

About Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures, part of the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, is a Sony Pictures Entertainment company. Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America (SCA), a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE's global operations encompass motion picture production and distribution; television production and distribution; digital content creation and distribution; worldwide channel investments; home entertainment acquisition and distribution; operation of studio facilities; development of new entertainment products, services and technologies; and distribution of filmed entertainment in 67 countries. Sony Pictures Entertainment can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.sonypictures.com/.

About Spyglass Entertainment

Spyglass Entertainment Group was founded in 1998 by industry veterans Roger Birnbaum and Gary Barber, whose previous films have collectively totaled over $4 billion in worldwide grosses. The company's box office hits range from "The Sixth Sense" with Bruce Willis, which earned $661 million in worldwide box office, to the box office smash "Bruce Almighty" starring Jim Carrey, which earned $485 million worldwide. Other company successes include "Seabiscuit," nominated for seven Oscars, "Shanghai Noon," "The Count of Monte Cristo," "The Recruit" and "Shanghai Knights."

For further information, please contact: Steve Elzer of Columbia Pictures, +1-310-244-7142.

SOURCE: Columbia Pictures

CONTACT: Steve Elzer of Columbia Pictures, +1-310-244-7142

Web site: http://www.sonypictures.com/