Exclusive: Author Jake Adelstein Dishes Some Dirt On TOKYO VICE Movie

Jake Adelstein has had quite an extraordinary life, as told in his book "Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter On The Police Beat in Japan" which chronicles his time as crime reporter for the famous newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun. In addition to the fascinating and bizarre world of crime in Japan, Jake became heavily involved with the Yakuza to the point where his life and family were threatened. Having also spoken to Jake after reading his fantastic book (one of my favorite non-fiction novels), I was ecstatic to hear recent news that it was being made into a feature film with Daniel Radcliffe playing him as a younger man. Jake recently gave me some time to answer a few quick questions about the anticipated project.

TWITCH: Who expressed interest in your work? How long has this been in development?

JAKE ADELSTEIN: Howard Sanders, my book rights agent really liked the book and took me on as a client. John Lesher, a fan of Japan then came on board. I'm really impressed by him. He understands Japanese culture, has incredibly good film sensibilities, and he is a fighter. He's also made films that I love. I watched End of Watch two times and thought to myself, 'Damn, I'm so glad Lesher is producing the book.'

The attached director Anthony Mandler comes from a background in music videos; does he have specific interests in the crime genre, especially considering his other film project The Last Days of American Crime?

I have talked with Anthony over the phone twice and will meet him soon. He seems very interested in Japanese culture and he's a tough and intelligent fellow. I'm looking forward to getting to know him better. 

This will be shot entirely in Japan? Is it a collaboration with a Japanese studio?

I think that's up in the air. 

Have you been working closely with screenwriter JT Rogers to develop the screenplay? How is the structure of the film - does it take place over the same periods of time?

JT Rogers and I went to high school together and were good friends. His plays are amazing. His first play "White People" I wrote about in the Yomiuri Shimbun. We work well together. He has done the bulk of the work. He came to Japan and met a lot of people, has gone over source materials with me and has studied the photos and texts I've provided him. His play "Blood and Gifts" set in Afghanistan when the US began to sponsor the Taliban is amazing. His research was so good that an ex-CIA covert operations officer I know was even impressed.

The screenplay condenses 16 years into about four years. This is why I'm not the main writer -- I'm unable to rearrange my life. I am trying to make sure the dialogue is accurate, the police, the Yakuza, the press and Japanese society are accurately portrayed and that the good things about Japanese life are also communicated.

Any more information on how Daniel Radcliffe became attached to the film?

I was told he'd read the book, really loved it, and had his agent ask who had the movie rights. As it turns out, his representative agency UTA was also handling the movie rights for the book. 

Any notable Japanese actors cast yet? Anyone you'd like to see cast?

I'm out of the loop. I'd love to Takakura Ken or Kitano Takeshi in the film. Or Yoshio Harada; he was amazing in the film Onibi (The Fire Within). Of course, I have no say in the casting.  

Do you have another book in the pipeline?

"The Last Yakuza: A Life In The Japanese Underworld". Coming out in 2014; I barely made the deadline for turning it in. I think it gives a very good history of the Yakuza and how the code of honor that at least some upheld has vanished over the last decade. It's told through the life of one former Yakuza boss, but his life is a microcosm of what Japan calls literally "the society in back." 

Stay tuned to Twitch for more on Tokyo Vice as it develops.
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  • Professor Chill

    The Harry Potter actor is a good choice, as Adelstein’s book is primarily fantasy: ridiculous claims with no proof whatsoever. He claims he’s great buddies with the cops and quotes conversations from years before, but his cop friend is dead and thus unable to verify a word. He claims the Yazuka offered him half a million dollars (!) not to publish his book - again, unable to verify. He claims the Yakuza killed (!) a friend of his, but fails to give her name or any proof at all. The claims about being a masseuse to housewives or living in a monastery? Any time his stories are challenged, his “sources” are either dead, the accused (i.e. Yazuka) or her can’t reveal them because of some unspecified “danger”. There are other incidences of his penchant for …”exaggeration”. He was asked about this but chose not to respond. Anyone who has lived or worked in Japan for even a short while will be unfamiliar with this fantasy land where Yakuza call up foreign workers for advice. It’s ludicrous. I hope the movie never gets made, as this charlatan is profiting from deceit.

  • Marc

    The fact that actor Yoshio Harada died two years ago should tell you something about Edelstein's expertise on Japan.

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