In 2005, film director Rob Marshall made a film version of the novel. It stars the Chinese actresses Zhang Ziyi as Sayuri, Gong Li as Hatsumomo, and Michelle Yeoh (who is Malaysian Chinese) as Mameha; and Japanese actors Ken Watanabe as the Chairman, Suzuka Ohgo as Sayuri's childhood incarnation Chiyo, and Youki Kudoh as the adult Pumpkin.
Filming was primarily done in California, and in some locations in Kyoto, including Kiyomizu-dera and Fushimi Inari-taisha. It was nominated for and won numerous awards, including nominations for six Academy Awards, three of which – Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design – were won.
Marshall was criticised in Japan and the West for casting Chinese actresses to play Japanese characters in roles that have so much to do with traditional Japanese culture. However, in the special features of the DVD, it is noted that few Japanese actresses showed interest in being a part of the production. Film critic Roger Ebert also noted that Zhang Ziyi, Gong Li and Michelle Yeoh are some of the highest-grossing actresses in Japan itself, regularly outgrossing their Japanese counterparts.