Norwegian Wood tells the story of a businessman reminiscing about the intense romances of his university days, set against the turbulent student riots of the late 1960s.
Tran became interested in directing the film in Japan with an all-Japanese cast after reading the French edition of the novel. Murakami has long resisted giving up film adaptation rights, but relented as he is an admirer of Tran's work, and was reassured by the plan proposed by Asmik Ace's Shinji Ogawa. Fuji TV's Chihiro Kameyama subsequently came on board as co-producer.
Ogawa's producing credits include A Gentle Breeze In The Village, Maison de Himiko and Ping Pong. Asmik Ace's relationship with Tran began through domestic distribution of his third film Vertical Ray Of The Sun in 2001.
Fuji TV motion picture head Kameyama is best known as the hit maker behind the Bayside Shakedown film franchise, Hero and The Magic Hour but also specialised films such as I Just Didn't Do It. Kameyama had also long been interested in adapting the novel.
The project continues Asmik Ace's involvement with foreign directors following François Girard's Silk and the upcoming remake of German film Knockin' On Heaven's Door directed by Michael Arias (Tekkon Kinkreet).
Named after the Beatles song of the same name, Norwegian Wood was first published by Kodansha in 1987, selling 8.7 million copies in Japan and propelling Murakami into cult-like stardom. It has since been translated into 36 languages. Heavily influenced by Western culture, Murakami has won the Franz Kafka prize and an honorary Doctorate from Princeton University among other accolades.
Tran's 1993 debut film The Scent Of Green Papaya won the Camera d'Or in Cannes as well as being nominated for an Oscar. His second film, Cyclo (1995), won the Golden Lion and FIPRESCI prize in Venice. Tran also served as a member of the Cannes jury in 1996.
Tran is currently in post-production on hotly anticipated $18m Hong Kong thriller I Come With The Rain. Tran's first English-language production stars Josh Hartnett, Lee Byung-hun and Takuya Kimura.
Norwegian Wood is set to go before cameras in February 2009 for a 2010 release.