Memoirs of a Geisha

Original Title: Memoirs of a Geisha
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Written by: Robin Swicord, Arthur Golden (Novel)
Cinematography: Dion Beebe
Music by: John Williams
Country: USA
Genres: Drama, Romance
Duration: 145 min
Release Date: 23 December 2005 (USA)
Filming Dates: 24 September 2004 – 31 January 2015
Filming Locations: USA (Los Angeles, Sacramento), Japan (Kyoto)

In the 1920s, 9-year-old Chiyo gets sold to a geisha house. There, she is forced into servitude, receiving nothing in return until the house’s ruling hierarchy determines if she is of high enough quality to service the clientele — men who visit and pay for conversation, dance and song. After rigorous years of training, Chiyo becomes Sayuri, a geisha of incredible beauty and influence. Life is good for Sayuri, but World War II is about to disrupt the peace. -IMDb


Zhang Ziyi

Michelle Yeoh

Gong Li

Ken Watanabe

Kōji Yakusho

Production stills


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• Steven Spielberg, Brett Ratner, Spike Jonze and Kimberly Peirce all considered directing this film. It took a lot of negotiating to get Rob Marshall to direct this film. Since he directed the hit film Chicago for Miramax, he owed his next film to them. This is a DreamWorks film. It was only because Miramax and DreamWorks have a long history of borrowing talent from each other that they were able to work out a deal.
• Maggie Cheung was once considered for the role of Mameha.
• John Williams passed on scoring the fourth Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in favor of scoring this film.
• Yunjin Kim turned down a leading role.
• According to Colleen Atwood, the costume designer, 250 hand-tailored kimonos were made for the film. She also said that their prints, patterns and colors are bigger and bolder than traditional kimonos.
• The actresses had a six-week crash course on geisha culture.
• Mari Iijima auditioned for one of the roles in this movie during the first round of pre-production in 1998.
• The film was banned in China because Chinese actresses play Japanese geisha. The national film board and the Office for the Administration of Radio, Film and Television claimed that it was banned because the storyline is “too sensitive”.
• Ziyi was allergic to the contact lenses that she had to wear for her role as Sayuri.
• The film was heavily criticized by Asian critics for having Chinese actresses portraying the geishas. In reality, according to producer Lucy Fisher, the producers held an open day for audition for Japanese actresses to audition for those roles. None turned up and they had to turn to other Asian actresses for casting.
• The film’s winter light effect was discovered incidentally days before production. With the silk rigged to prevent rain water from damaging the set, the rigging crew attempted to emulate daylight during night. Gaffer John Buckley threw 3/4 lights from top to bottom of the set through the silk. Thus was the result and it was what Dion Beebe got which he went on to win Best Cinematographer of 2005.
• Neither Gong Li nor Suzuka Ohgo could speak English at the time of filming.
• Youki Kudoh had to work with dialect coaches and re-learn how to speak with a Japanese accent as although in real life having been born in Japan, speaks with an American accent from living in the USA for a good portion of her life.
• Although never fully elaborated on, the dance on stage that Sayuri performs tells the story of a woman who suspects her husband of infidelity and waits outside in the snow to catch her husband leaving his mistress; unfortunately a blizzard sweeps over the land and she succumbs to the elements. In the novel, it was Mameha who performs this dance.
• Youki Kudoh auditioned for the role of Sayuri but lost out to Ziyi.
• When Mameha declines from attending the Baron’s party, Hatsumomo viciously asks ‘taking care of a little nuisance?’. While never fully divulged in the film, the book goes onto explain that Mameha had gone for an abortion.
• The makeup the Geisha’s wear early in this movie is less traditional and more modern so that it translates to a more modern audience; a Geisha of the time rarely ever fully painted her lips, and would either paint the bottom lip, just the top, or partially the center of both. The full painting of lips did not come until after the forties and the fifties, with the increase of Western culture and style. —IMDb
• On a visit to Tokyo to promote the film, Zhang Ziyi received a mysterious parcel and letter, revealed to have been sent by an elderly Japanese woman who had once worked as a geisha. In her letter, the woman stated that she had been touched by the trailer of the film and expected the movie to bring back fond memories for her and her friends. Inside the parcel were several exquisitely worked antique kimonos. Zhang Ziyi was moved to tears by the gesture and sent the woman an invitation to the film’s Japanese premiere. She also promised to wear one of the kimono to the event as a sign of her gratitude.
• In an episode of The Birth of an Actor, Ziyi shared her experience of a working on a specific scene that involved Gong Li’s character slapping her for insulting her:

Zhang said that she and Gong discussed how to perform the scene before they started shooting and the latter said that they should do it for real so not to make the scene look fake. Zhang stated that although she agreed to it, even telling Gong that it doesn’t matter how she does it “as long as it works”, she was extremely nervous when it was time to shoot it. “My lips were shaking, and my eyelids were trembling,” she said. In the end, said Zhang, she was slapped at least seven times before they had the best take. “When I went back to remove my make-up, I realised that there were palm prints on my face. Although it was hard, I really benefitted a lot from working with a senior like Gong Li,” she said.

-Yahoo News

Awards and Nominations
Ceremony Category Recipient Result
2005 California on Location Awards Location of the Year Mike Fantasia Won
Production Company of the Year Won
2005 National Board of Review Top Ten Films Won
Best Supporting Actress Gong Li Won
2005 New York Film Critics Circle Best Actress Zhang Ziyi Won (3rd)
2005 Phoenix Film Critics Society Best Costume Design Collen Atwood Won
2005 Satellite Awards Outstanding Motion Picture Nominated
Outstanding Actress Zhang Ziyi Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actress Gong Li Nominated
Outstanding Director Rob Marshall Nominated
Outstanding Sceenplay Robin Swicord Won
Outstanding Art Direction John Myhre Nominated
Outstanding Cinematography Dion Beebe Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design Collen Atwood Nominated
Outstanding Original Score John Williams Nominated
2005 Washington DC Film Critics Association Best Screenplay Arthur Golden Nominated
2006 Academy Awards Best Art Direction John Myhre Won
Best Cinematography Dion Beebe Won
Best Costume Design Collen Atwood Won
Best Music John Williams Nominated
Best Sound Editing Wylie Stateman Nominated
Best Sound Mixing Kevin O’Connell Nominated
2006 American Society of Cinematographers Outstanding Cinematography Dion Deebe Won
2006 Art Directors Guild Excellence in Production Design John Myre Won
2006 Australian Cinematographers Society International Awards Dion Deebe Won
2006 Australian Film Institute Excellence in Cinematography Dion Deebe Won
2006 BAFTA Awards Best Actress Zhang Ziyi Nominated
Best Cinematography Dion Deebe Won
Best Costume Design Collen Atwood Won
Best Production Design John Myhre Nominated
Best Make Up/Hair Noriko Watanabe Nominated
Anthony Asquith Award John Williams Won
2006 British Society of Cinematographers Best Cinematography Dion Deebe Nominated
2006 Broadcast Film Critics Association Best Picture Nominated
Best Composer John Williams Won
Best Soundtrack Nominated
2006 Casting Society of America Best Casting Francine Maisler Nominated
2006 Chicago Film Critics Association Best Original Score John Williams Nominated
2006 Cinema Audio Society Best Sound Mixing Kevin o’Connell Nominated
2006 Costume Designers Guild Awards Excellence in Costume Design Collen Atwood Won
2006 Golden Globe Best Actress Zhang Ziyi Nominated
Best Original Score John Williams Won
2006 Image Awards Outstanding Actress Zhang Ziyi Nominated
2006 Italian Syndicate of Film Journalists Best Editing Pietro Scalia Won
2006 MTV Movie Awards Sexiest Performance Zhang Ziyi Nominated
2006 Motion Picture Sound Editors Best Dialogue Mixing Renee Tondelli Won
Best Music Editing Ramiro Belgardt Nominated
Best Sound Effects Editing Wylie Stateman Nominated
2006 Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Actress Zhang Ziyi Nominated
2006 Visual Effects Society Awards Best Supporting Visual Effects Robert Stromberg Nominated
2006 Young Artist Awards Best Family Film Nominated
Best Supporting Young Actress Suzuka Ohgo Won
2007 Grammy Awards Best Soundtrack John Williams Won