Film completed after losing lead actor to COVID-19

A film that was to feature the late comedian Shimura Ken in the leading role has been completed. Its cast and staff remembered him in an event to mark the film's completion and the first anniversary of his death on Monday.

"Kinema no Kamisama," which literally means the "God of Cinema," is a story of an elderly man who gave up his dream of becoming a movie director in his youth. Fifty years later, he came across the script of a film he was due to direct, and begins to revive his old dream.

Shimura was originally due to star in the film. But the comedian got the coronavirus and died of pneumonia on March 29 last year before shooting his part.

Singer Sawada Kenji took over his role.

Director Yamada Yoji and actors talked about how they felt to learn of Shimura's death, as well as what the completed film means to them.

Yamada said he still remembers how confused he felt because he had never experienced losing a lead actor when the production had already finished the costume-fitting stage.

Yamada said he wrote the script with Shimura in mind, but counted on a possibility that Sawada would create a different persona. He said Sawada came out with a vivid image of a hopeless man, although it must have been a tough decision for him to agree to play the role.

Actor Suda Masaki played the lead role as a young man. He said he is pleased the movie has been completed even though the film-making often did not go as planned. He added the movie has many messages.

The film is scheduled to be released in Japan on August 6.