Japanese actor Sonny Chiba, who wowed the world with his martial arts skills in more than 100 films, including Kill Bill, has died. He was 82.
Chiba, known in Japan as Shinichi Chiba, died late Thursday, Tokyo-based Astraia, his management office, said in a statement Friday.
Japanese media said had been hospitalised near Tokyo with COVID-19 and died from pneumonia.
Chiba rose to stardom in Japan in the 1960s, portraying samurai, fighters and police detectives, the anguished so-called "anti-heroes” trying to survive in a violent world. He did many of the stunt scenes himself.
His overseas career took off after his 1970s Japanese film The Street Fighter proved popular in the U.S.
American director Quentin Tarantino listed the work as among his "grindhouse,” or low-budget kitsch cinema, favorites.
Tarantino cast Chiba in the role of Hattori Hanzo, a master swordsmith in Kill Bill.
Chiba appeared in the 1991 Hollywood film Aces, directed by John Glen, as well as in Hong Kong movies.
Chiba’s career also got a boost from the global boom in kungfu films, set off by Chinese legend Bruce Lee, although critics say Chiba tended to exhibit a dirtier, thug-like fighting style than Lee.
Born in Fukuoka, southwestern Japan, Chiba studied at Nippon Sport Science University trained in various martials arts, earning a fourth-degree black belt in karate.
Chiba set up Japan Action Club in 1980, to develop a younger generation of actors, including protege Hiroyuki Sanada, who is among Hollywood’s most coveted Japanese actors, landing roles in The Last Samurai and Rush Hour 3.
Chiba is survived by his three children, Juri Manase, Mackenyu Arata and Gordon Maeda, all actors. Japanese media reports said a wake was being held Friday, but did not give details of funeral arrangements. – AP