Carl Rinsch clashed with Universal over the final vision of the film. Universal wanted to make an effects-driven fantasy blockbuster akin to Avatar (2009) or The Lord of the Rings, while Rinsch envisioned the film as more of a drama, such as Gladiator (2000), or Kingdom of Heaven (2005).
Due to studio interference, the film saw several script changes during filming, and a radical re-edit during post-production. The part of Yorick van Wageningen, who originally had a significant supporting role as Kapitan, was cut back to a silent cameo due to these decisions.
When executives at Universal saw an early cut of the film in 2011, they had concerns about the story, and ordered script changes. They also slated another week of shooting to make Keanu Reeves' character more integral in the film's finale.
According to Costume Designer Penny Rose, everyone had a customized costume in keeping with his or her background: "We based it on the culture, and what the shapes should be - everyone's in a kimono - but we've thrown a kind of fashion twist at it, and we've made it full of color."
The character of Kai seems to be patterned after two historical figures: William Adams, an English sailor who became the first Western samurai, and Minamoto Yoshitsune, a twelfth-century warrior said to have been trained in martial arts by Tengu.
The film was supposed to come out in November 2012, but after primary shooting was complete and just prior to the release, the studio demanded more scenes for Keanu Reeves to capitalize on his star nature, and insert a love story involving Reeves' character as well as add in more fantasy battle scenes in the style of The Hobbit or Harry Potter.