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'Game of Thrones meets feudal Japan' on Port Moody's waterfront

A massive new TV adaptation of James Clavell's Shogun is taking shape on the old Flavelle sawmill site in Port Moody.
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Production crews are busy transforming a portion of the old Flavelle sawmill property into a 17th-century Japanese village that will be a set for a new TV series based upon James Clavell's 1975 novel, Shogun.

A new community is rising on the old Flavelle sawmill property along Port Moody’s waterfront.

But it’s not the mixed-use development of 11 high-rise condo towers, shops and light industrial spaces envisioned in 2018 when the Metro Vancouver board of directors redesignated the 12.7-hectare site from industrial to general urban use.

This community is just temporary.

The collection of small wooden huts and a large, wood-framed structure is a 17th-century Japanese village being constructed for an FX TV series adaptation of James Clavell’s novel, Shogun.

The 10-episode series has been described by some entertainment websites as “Game of Thrones in feudal Japan.”

It tells the story of three intertwined characters: an English sailor shipwrecked with 10 other survivors in Japan; a shrewd, powerful lord facing challenges from his rivals; and a mysterious female samurai translator torn between her blossoming love for the stranded sailor and her loyalty to the lord to whom she has been pledged.

According to variety.com, Hiroyuki Sanada has been cast as the feudal lord, Toranaga. His previous credits include the role of Scorpion in the film, Mortal Kombat, as well as the HBO series Westworld, The Last Samurai and Rush Hour 3.

The stranded sailor, Blackthorne, is to be played by British actor Cosmo Jarvis, who’s appeared in the Amazon series Peaky Blinders and films like Lady Macbeth and Hunter Killer.

The role of Lady Mariko, the samurai translator, has yet to be cast.

The show is being executive produced by Tim Van Patten, who’s worked on The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones. Its producer is Erin Smith, who produced Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle that was also filmed in B.C. locations like Coquitlam and New Westminster.

The series was originally set to film on location in Japan, but that was scuttled by the rising rate of COVID-19 infections in that country, according to the Australian showbiz website, bosshunting.com.au. Filming is set to begin Aug. 24 and wraps in June 2022, according to Creative BC, that collaborates with various levels of government to help develop the province’s creative industries.

The series, which was originally greenlit in 2018, is scheduled to be broadcast on the FX content hub of the Hulu streaming network in the United States and Disney + affiliate Star in several international markets.

It isn’t the first time Clavell’s 1975 novel has been brought to television.

In 1980, a five-episode miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain as Blackthorne was broadcast on NBC. It went on to win three Golden Globe awards and three Emmys.

In 2019, Port Moody issued about $30,000 worth of filming permits, up from $9,000 in 2018. Some of the productions included scenes for TV series like Supernatural and Supergirl, as well as feature films like Flora and Ulysses and Playing with Fire, along with several commercials.

The Flavelle property has been largely quiet since the sawmill that occupied the site for 115 years was closed last year by its owner, AP Group. Much of the equipment to cut and produce cedar boards has been removed.

At the time of the closure, the company was in the formative stages of a massive redevelopment plan for the property that would see it transformed into a high-density mixed-use neighbourhood with homes for up to 7,000 residents, jobs for 1,100 people, as well as park space and an extension of a walkway to link the site to neighbouring Rocky Point Park.

The company has yet to announce what its intentions are for the project since the sawmill’s closure.

- with a file from Janis Cleugh, Tri-City News