Shōgun ending

Sam McCurdy ASC BSC shot five episodes of Shōgun, including the penultimate episode and the finale of the thrilling drama. The technical marvel wowed not just with tantalizing action and sights, but patient unspoken conflict and drama that always enriched the striking images. No exception for the Shōgun ending, which closes things out with a final shot that captures the beauty and weight of the series.

Immersive Media spoke with McCurdy, who did mention “there were options for the end.” Ultimately, the show’s creators — Justin Marks and Rachel Kondo — decided to go with Lord Yoshi Toranaga (Hiroyuki Sanada) staring out at sea and sky, with the vastness of his land’s future on his shoulders. It’s a beautifully melancholic shot, the Lord’s back turned toward the audience.

McCurdy, too, felt the pressure of the image when shooting it with director Frederick E. O. Toye. “In our heart of hearts, myself, Fred , Justin, we remember vividly shooting that last shot of Hiro on the Peninsula,” McCurdy told Immersive. “We always knew that the sun set right behind the mountains in front of Hiro. We were cutting it right to the wire in terms of the length of our day. At one point, I was pleading with our producer Ed McDonald, like, ‘Ed, I might be two or three minutes out on when the sun is actually going to go behind the hillside, so you’ve just got to give us a little bit of grace, please.’ Ed was like, ‘Of course, Sam, it’s going to be the closing of the show. We’ll let you get the sun in the right place.'”

McCurdy had previously worked with Frederick on other shows. Both artists felt the final shot was a special moment. They knew and plotted just the right time for it. “Everything was in position waiting for just that right moment to get the silhouette of the mountains, the silhouette of Hiro, everything like that,” McCurdy continued. “One of the reasons I love working with Fred is we both enjoy natural lights, but one of the things we love about natural light is dictating when a scene’s going to be shot. So, we’d go through a script and if it just says ‘day exterior,’ Fred and I will sit down and go, ‘Okay, this should be morning or evening.’ The whole sequence with pulling the boat up and Hiro on the peninsula, we wanted it all to feel a little dusky.”

The duskiness does carry a sense of uncertainty and loss to contrast the beauty surrounding Hiro and his home. Truly, a perfect final image that tells a story before and beyond that moment. “When everything comes together like that and you are sitting by the monitors and you’re watching the final image at the time of day,” McCurdy concluded, “and it’s such a perfect shape, the costume, the shape of Hiro himself, and the camera pulling away, you’re kind of like, yeah, okay, we did okay.”

Check back soon for more from our interview with cinematographer Sam McCurdy ASC BSC.

Jack Giroux

In high school, Jack would skip classes to interview filmmakers. With 15 years in film journalism, he's contributed to outlets such as Thrillist, Music Connection Magazine, and High Times Magazine. He's witnessed explosions, attended satanic rituals, and scaled volcanoes in his career, but Jack's true passion is interviewing artists.