Sonny Chiba, Kill Bill actor & martial arts icon, dies at 82

Last Updated on August 23, 2021

Sonny Chiba dies

Sonny Chiba, who was known internationally for being a martial arts legend and appearing in such films as Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Volume 2, has died at the age of 82. The Japanese actor died of Covid complications with the news being confirmed by Japan’s Oricon News (via Deadline).

Chiba was born on January 22, 1939, in Fukuoka, Japan, and he began learning martial arts while at the Nippon Sports Science University in 1957. Chiba studied under karate master Masutatsu “Mas” Oyama and earned his first-degree black belt in 1965. The actor also held black belts in ninjutsu, shorinji kempo, judo, kendo, and goju-ryu karate. Chiba actually would go on to play Oyama in a trilogy of films that include Champion of Death, Karate Bearfighter, and Karate for Life.

Chiba was well-known in Japanese film and TV with more than 125 credits for the famed Toei Studios alone. Chiba was also a noted stunt choreographer who got started after he was spotted by the Toei film studio in the 1960s. The actor, who was born Sadaho Maeda, appeared in a variety of TV series but his breakthrough film came in The Street Fighter, which proved to be an international hit. It was after this film that New Line Cinema founder Robert Shaye dubbed the actor ‘Sonny.’

After appearing in a plethora of martial arts movies through the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, Chiba became known to a brand new audience after playing the sushi chef and retired samurai Hattori Hanzo in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Volume 1 and Volume 2. Tarantino had been a huge fan of Chiba’s for years and working with him was a huge honor for the director. In Tarantino’s screenplay for 1993’s True Romance, Christian Slater’s character Clarence Worley is a big fan of Chiba’s. Chiba also went on to star in Takashi Miike’s Deadly Outlaw: Rekka, Battle Royale II, and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.

Sonny Chiba is He is survived by his three children – daughter Juri Manase, son Mackenyu Arata, and son Gordon Maeda – through his marriages to Yōko Nogiwa and Tamami Chiba. Fans can catch his final acting role as Jou in Ryuji Yamakita’s action drama Bond of Justice: Kizuna, which hits Los Angeles theaters on October 1, 2021.

Source: Deadline

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