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Sawajiri dumped overboard from ‘Yamato’

'Space Battleship Yamato'
‘Space Battleship Yamato’
TOKYO (TR) – Actress Erika Sawajiri, a local tabloid fav for a series of headline-making scandals, has been replaced as the female lead of the SF fantasy “Space Battleship Yamato,” according to Japan press reports. Her replacement is Meisa Kuroki, who starred in Takashi Miike’s two “Crows” high school gang pics.

Based on Reiji Matsumoto’s classic 1970s SF toon, the live-action “Yamato” is being produced by broadcaster TBS and its partners. Shooting is skedded to start in mid-October, with release by Toho penciled in for December 2010.

The director is Takashi Yamazaki, a CG whiz whose credits include the pics “Always” and “Ballad,” a time-traveling fantasy that has done strong-if-not-stellar box office since its September 5 bow. The male lead is Takuya Kimura, megastar member of the pop group SMAP.

Sawajiri’s firing was prompted by her release earlier this month by Stardust, one of Japan’s top talent agencies. Sawajiri reportedly got the boot for the media uproar that ensued last July when cops on Amami Oshima, a popular resort island, busted her for riding an electric moped without a helmet, letting her off with a warning.

This would have been a speed bump of a scandal for most Japanese celebs, but Sawajiri has been a media piñata since a disastrous opening-day stage appearance in September 2007 for the drama “Closed Note.” Answering an interviewer’s questions in sullen monosyllables, she was dubbed “Erika-sama” (“Princess Erika”) by the press for her perceived arrogance and all-round bad attitude. Sawajiri shed public tears of contrition, but soon resumed her rebel ways, finally leading to a pink slip from Stardust and a walk down the plank from “Yamato.”