Matthew-McConaughey-joins-Ken-Watanabe-for-Gus-Van-Sants-Sea-of-TreesLast seen behind the camera on 2012’s Promised Land, renowned filmmaker Gus Van Sant is about to return to the helm for his anticipated follow-up, Sea of Trees, and he’s lining up his leading cast very nicely.

Ken Watanabe has been attached to play the Japanese lead, and now The Wrap reports that Matthew McConaughey, riding high on his praised performance in Dallas Buyers Club, has signed on to star opposite Watanabe in the American lead. We had heard that Joaquin Phoenix was considering the part, but it looks like he must have ultimately passed, with McConaughey coming on board instead.

Sea of Trees follows an American man (McConaughey) who takes a journey into the infamous “Suicide Forest” at the foothills of Mount Fuji with the intention of taking his own life. When he is interrupted by a Japanese man (Watanabe) who has had second thoughts about his own suicide, and is trying to find his way out of the forest, the two begin a journey of reflection and survival.

The film is penned by Chris Sparling, who wrote Buried, the high-concept thriller led by Ryan Reynolds. Sparling’s script made it onto the 2013 Black List, and McConaughey’s involvement adds to the anticipation all the more alongside Watanabe.

Not only has McConaughey earned praise for his leading performance in Dallas Buyers Club, he’s also coming off the back of a supporting role in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, and can currently be seen in HBO’s True Detective, with Christopher Nolan’s highly-anticipated Interstellar closing out the year for him in November.

Watanabe has most recently been seen in the Japanese remake of Unforgiven, due to be released in the UK at the end of the month, and will shortly be seen in Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, shaping up to be one of the biggest and best blockbusters of the year. He’s also attached to star in Martin Scorsese’s Silence, so whilst it’s early days yet, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding Watanabe at the end of 2015, heading into the Oscar season in two years’ time.

And if Sea of Trees can head into cinemas by the end of this year, with production expected to get underway shortly, then hopefully Watanabe will be a strong contender for the next two years.