The Time Hayao Miyazaki Threatened Harvey Weinstein With a Samurai Sword
Harvey Weinstein is, famously, a huge piece of shit. Few people had the courage or the leverage to stand up to him during his decades-long reign of terror, but Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki did what many others wish they could have: made an overt threat to Weinstein with a huge-ass sword.
Watch our latest episode of Staff Picks — the series where we curate movies to create the best video rental store of all time — to hear the crew debate which Miyazaki film is his greatest (also, which of his characters has Tony Soprano rizz). And read below to learn more about how Miyazaki sent Weinstein into an impotent rage through the postal system.
Miyazaki and Weinstein occupy vastly different quadrants of the filmmaking world. Miyazaki is wildly popular and influential — and he hates it. Weinstein was wildly powerful and couldn’t get enough of it — and now he’s rotting in jail. It almost feels like they were destined for an epic clash.
Weinstein felt compelled to get his grubby little paws all over the films he produced, much to the chagrin of those films’ directors. He clashed with Quentin Tarantino over Reservoir Dogs, and Bong Joon-ho had to pull off some emotional gymnastics to maintain his vision of Snowpiercer. And when he made outrageous demands for Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke, it was a classic immovable object/unstoppable force scenario.
Specifically, Weinstein demanded that Miyazaki cut his film from 135 minutes to 90 minutes. Miyazaki had already expressed that cutting down his film was a nonstarter, and Weinstein had reportedly agreed to keep his notes minimal. Still, to drive the point home, Miyazaki mailed him a very clever, very poignant gift: a samurai sword with the note, “No cuts.”
Predictably, this sword succeeded in skewering Weinstein’s ego. He, in turn, metaphorically impaled the messenger, giving promotional manager Steve Alpert the ol’ “you’ll never work in this town again!” Like, almost word for word. Weinstein told Alpert: “If you don’t get (Miyazaki) to cut the fucking film, you will never work in this fucking industry again! Do you fucking understand me? Never!”
But Miyazaki had the contractual high ground. He owned the rights to the film, so he had final say on any changes. Despite a barrage of threats and insults directed at Miyazaki himself, and other targets at Studio Ghibli, he held his ground. They reached a “compromise” that clearly shows who won that battle — the final run time is 134 minutes.
Asked about the epic clash over a decade later, Miyazaki’s answer seemed calculated to further enrage the disgraced producer: “I defeated him.”
Watch the Miyazaki showdown episode of Staff Picks to see if Princess Mononoke made the cut.