Human Interest

Action film star Sonny Chiba dies from Covid-related illness at 82

Tokyo, Aug 20 (EFE).- Japanese actor Shinichi Chiba, known outside his country as Sonny Chiba and famous for his martial arts and action films including “Kill Bill,” died on Thursday at the age of 82 due to pneumonia caused by Covid-19.

The actor, who had not been vaccinated, was infected at the end of July and was originally treated at home before being hospitalized on Aug. 8 in Chiba prefecture, according to his office, cited by Kyodo News on Friday.

Born in 1939 in Fukuoka as Sadaho Maeda, his family soon moved to Chiba, where he began to practice various sports, with a special emphasis on artistic gymnastics.

In his years of study at a prestigious Nippon Sport Science University in the 1950s, he began practicing martial arts.

The famous producer Toei discovered him in 1960 and Chiba began filming television series before making his debut on the big screen in “Furaibo Tantei: Akai Tani no Sangeki” (The Wandering Detective: Tragedy in Red Valley), the 1961 debut feature of the legendary director Kinji Fukasaku.

From there, the two collaborated regularly and Chiba became one of the best-known faces of Japanese action cinema, starring each year in more than a dozen films throughout the 1960s.

Among the most celebrated collaborations with Fukasaku was “Yagyu Ichizoku no Inbo” (Yagyu Family’s Conspiracy) from 1978, in which Chiba first played Yagyu Jubei Mitsuyoshi, a legendary samurai who lived in the 17th century.

In the 1970s the actor, who became a black belt in various martial arts, opened a school for stuntmen and performers in martial arts films.

His 1974 film “Gekitotsu! Satsujin Ken” was distributed in the US, where it was marketed as “The Street Fighter” and achieved huge public success.

The distributor changed the actor’s name so that the American public could more easily memorize him and thus he became known as Sonny Chiba outside of his native country.

His work became an inspiration for other world cinema figures, such as Jackie Chan and Quentin Tarantino, under whom he played character Hattori Hanzo in the two volumes of “Kill Bill,” for which he also coordinated the fight scenes.

Chiba continued working until his last days as an actor and choreographer, and occasionally as a producer and director in film, television and theater.

He was yet to premiere “Bond of Justice: Kizuna,” in which he plays a member of the yakuza, or Japanese mafia. EFE


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