Empire Pictureshas acquired all US rights to Yoji Yamada's Japanese Academy Award foreignlanguage submission The Twilight Samurai and plans a spring release.

Satoko Ishidaand Masaki Koga of Shochiku and Empire partner Edward Arentz concluded the dealat Mifed last month.

The TwilightSamurai stars HiroyukiSanada as a low-ranking samurai widower who works by day to support hischildren and is hired to kill a fierce warrior from a rival clan. Rie Miyazawaplays Sanada's unrequited love.

The film was a majorhit in Japan last year, winning 12 out of 13 major prizes at the 2003 JapaneseFilm Academy Awards including best picture, director, screenplay, actor andactress.

"We think it'san instant classic and anyone with an appreciation of the traditions ofJapanese cinema will not fail to be moved by it," Arentz said in a statement.