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Where The Cast Of The Last Samurai Is Now

The 2003 film "The Last Samurai" was an epic period piece about U.S. Civil War veteran Nathan Algren (played by Tom Cruise) who is hired as a mercenary by the Imperial Japanese government to train its troops in modern warfare. As the movie unfolds, Algren is leading an under-prepared group of Imperial soldiers against an opposing group of sword-wielding samurai, who wound him and take him captive. As their prisoner, he learns the way of the samurai from their leader, Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe), and must soon decide on which side his loyalty should lie.

Nearly 20 years after this blockbuster film was released, it's still considered a production masterpiece, with the cinematic qualities and beautifully shot battle sequences overshadowing the overdone and predictable plot lines. This Academy Award-nominated film had a solid lineup of actors throughout the entire 154-minute run, including some familiar veterans of the big screen. It currently holds an 83% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Two decades later, many of the stars of "The Last Samurai" are still actively working in entertainment. 

Tom Cruise

It doesn't seem like Tom Cruise has ever allowed himself to slow down since he became a household name after the release of "Risky Business" in 1983. Since then, the actor has appeared in more than 50 films and has been one of the most sought-after leading men for the last 40 years. 

Cruise went into filming "The Last Samurai" with three Oscar nominations and three Golden Globe Award wins under his belt (via IMDb).  The role he played in the film, Nathan Algren, is a U.S. military veteran of the Indian Wars. The atrocities he witnessed and participated in against indigenous peoples haunted him, molding him into who is has become when he is sent to Japan. After the production wrapped, Cruise showed no sign of slowing down, garnering roles in "Collateral," "War of the Worlds," and "Mission: Impossible III" within the next two years.

Several "Mission: Impossible" sequels and a few "Jack Reacher" movies later, Cruise found himself starring in the much-anticipated sequel to the 1980s classic "Top Gun." "Top Gun: Maverick" has already had tremendous success at the box office, earning more than $900 million worldwide (via Box Office Mojo). Even now, Cruise shows no signs of slowing down. He has two more "Mission: Impossible" sequels in production, and it is rumored that he would co-star in the sequel to the 2014 sci-fi film "Edge of Tomorrow," titled "Live Die Repeat and Repeat."

Ken Watanabe

Japanese-born Ken Watanabe had a nearly 20-year acting career before being cast in a leading role in "The Last Samurai" in 2003. The actor appeared in numerous films in his native Japan throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, as well as recurring roles on various Japanese TV shows.

Watanabe broke through with his acting career in the United States when he was cast in the role of Katsumoto. As with Cruise, Watanabe has not slowed down since the film the two co-starred in was completed. Though appearing in many Japanese films after "The Last Samurai," Watanabe had significant roles in "Memoirs of a Geisha," "Transformers: Age of Extinction," and "Batman Begins." 

With several films in production, Watanabe still makes time to co-star in the popular HBO series "Toyko Vice." His voice can also be heard on several video games, including "Batman Begins," as well as lending his voice for the Wes Anderson-directed animated film "Isle of Dogs."

Watanabe speaks English as a second language and relayed the challenges he had to overcome breaking through on the big screen for U.S. audiences. In an interview with The Guardian, he quipped "The most difficult thing was the language," he said of "The Last Samurai." "I'd never acted before in English. I tried to get the language right so I could focus on the acting. But really, acting is the same, whatever language you use."

Billy Connolly

Many TV watchers in the United States first remember Billy Connolly in the popular prime-time sitcom "Head of the Class," in which he replaced actor Howard Hesseman in 1990. A stand-up comic by trade, the Scottish-born Connolly had amassed quite a resume on both film and TV before being cast in "The Last Samurai."

Since the film's release, Connolly has appeared in nearly two dozen films, shorts, and TV shows, both in the United States and in the United Kingdom. Along with feature films, Connolly used his recognizable voice in the animated films "Brave," "Open Season," and "Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties." His last filming credits are from 2017, where he served as the narrator for the five-episode miniseries "Five Fables."

Connolly sadly decided to retire from acting and comedy several years ago. Newshub reports that Connolly suffers from Parkinson's disease, making it difficult for the legendary performer to remember lines. He told The Guardian in 2021, "The challenges lately have been medical. They're getting worse. You'll notice I've been holding my left hand – it's starting to jump around. I have to weigh it up and see how bad it gets." He released his autobiography in 2021, titled "Windswept and Interesting" (per The Sun). 

William Atherton

Veteran actor William Atherton has a career that goes back to his first film appearance in the 1972 movie "The New Centurions" (per IMDb). Since then, many fans of '80s cinema will remember him as EPA agent Walter Peck in the 1984 film "Ghostbusters," and again as an annoying reporter in the 1988 film "Die Hard."

In "The Last Samurai," Atherton played the role of a Winchester rifle representative, whose fiery introductions of Cruise's character at an event showcased the character's bloodthirst and hatred toward the indigenous peoples that the rifle was manufactured to massacre.

Atherton continued to work steadily after "The Last Samurai," appearing in dozens of films and TV shows. His penchant was TV dramas, landing roles in "Law and Order," "Boston Legal," and Defiance." But Atherton used his talents for comedic purposes as well, taking roles in "Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie" and the Adult Swim show "Childrens Hospital."

Atherton's voice can also be heard in the video game "Ghostbusters," reprising his role as that annoying Walter Peck guy. He appears to have been taking an extended break from acting on screen, his last IMDb credit being the 2018 film "Bad Company."

Tony Goldwyn

Tony Goldwyn might be one of those actors that seems familiar, but you have trouble placing them. Though not typically cast in a leading role, the characters Goldwyn typically plays have such a tremendous impact on the plotlines that his everyman looks wind up etched in our memories. Whether playing the murderous Carl Bruner in the 1990 film "Ghost," or as the reluctant sidekick in the 1992 film "Kuffs," Goldwyn's scenes were quite memorable leading up to his role as Colonel Bagley in "The Last Samurai."

After that film, Goldwyn appeared in several films, but his niche seemed to be TV. He made appearances on "The L Word," and "Without a Trace," and had a recurring role in the TV drama "Law and Order: Criminal Intent."

Beginning in 2012, Goldwyn co-starred in the Shonda Rhimes drama "Scandal," appearing in all 124 episodes until the show ended in 2018 (per IMDb). 2019 had the actor co-starring in the Netflix production "Chambers," a 10-episode mini-series. Recently, in 2021, Goldwyn was cast in the National Geographic show "The Hot Zone." Goldwyn has four projects in post-production, according to IMDb.