Here's the Story of How Harvey Weinstein Nearly Ruined Studio Ghibli's 'Princess Mononoke'
Spoiler: It involves a samurai sword and a very angry Weinstein
Published Jun 09, 2020Long before Harvey Weinstein was a convicted sex criminal, the producer was notorious for an entirely different reason — his heavy-handed film edits. In fact, Weinstein even tried to cut the Studio Ghibli classic Princess Mononoke — or at least until he was forced to square off with Hayao Miyazaki and his samurai sword.
Back in the late '90s, Studio Ghibli tasked itself with releasing English-language dubs of its films in the U.S. alongside Disney, which led the Japanese animation studio to work with Weinstein's Disney subsidiary Miramax.
But as legend has it, Miyazaki went into the relationship knowing full well Weinstein's love of heavy, creativity-crushing edits, and he gave "Harvey Scissorhands" a stark warning when it came to the U.S. release of Princess Mononoke. Believe it or not, Miyazaki sent Weinstein an actual samurai sword, with a note reading "No cuts" attached to the blade.
And apparently this made Weinstein more than a little upset, leading him to go full berserker mode.
As Cartoon Brew [via IndieWire] points out, former Studio Ghibli executive Steve Alpert recounts the whole sword incident in his upcoming memoir Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man: 15 Years at Studio Ghibli. According to Alpert, when when Miyazaki refused to listen to Weinstein's request to cut the runtime of Princess Mononoke from 135 minutes to 90 minutes, Weinstein lost it.
Alpert — who ran Ghibli's international division between 1996 and 2011 — recounts Weinstein's reaction to Miyazaki like this: "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!"
Thankfully, Miyazaki retained final cut privileges over the film and other Ghibli properties. In 2010, Miyazaki himself recounted the Weinstein incident in an interview with The Guardian, saying Weinstein "bombarded" him with "aggressive attacks" to cut the film. At the end of the day, though, the filmmaker stated: "I defeated him."
According to Alpert's new book, the clashes with Weinstein and Ghibli went far beyond Princess Mononoke, with the disgraced film producer also reportedly lashing out at other Ghibli executives.
Alpert's memoir Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man: 15 Years at Studio Ghibli is set for release on June 16 via Stone Bridge Press. You can pre-order it now.
Studio Ghibli just announced its next film Aya to Majo, which is set for release later this year.