Veteran Japanese Actor Sonny Chiba dies at 82


Japanese actor and martial arts master, Sonny Chiba has died aged 82 from a Covid-related illness.

The talented veteran Chiba died late on Thursday in a hospital near Tokyo where he had been treated for Covid-19 since 8 August, his office Astraia said, adding that he had not been vaccinated.

Born Sadaho Maeda in 1939 in Fukuoka, his acting career began in the 1960s with a string of roles in Japanese martial arts films and TV shows which subsequently went on to include more than 100 films.

Chiba became widely known in the west after his role in True Romance, the 1993 thriller written by Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott. By then, Chiba had become a star in Japan, appearing in titles such as the 1970s Street Fighter trilogy (and its spin-off, Sister Street Fighter), Bullet Train and Champion of Death. He did many of the stunt scenes himself.

Chiba was also a title-winning gymnast in his teens, before turning to karate earning a black belt in 1965. He also earned black belts in judo, kendo, among other martial arts. Chiba had already embarked on his acting career, acquiring the nickname “Sonny” after the Street Fighter films proved a cult hit in the US.

Chiba later set up the Japan Action Club in 1980 to develop a younger generation of actors, including protege Hiroyuki Sanada, who is among Hollywood’s best-regarded Japanese actors.

He also offered instruction to other actors involved in fight scenes, and was subsequently cast as a yakuza boss in 2006’s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.

In an interview, Chiba described a scene from an episode of the TV detective series Key Hunter, in which he jumped from a moving car to a light airplane as it was taking off, as the most dangerous stunt of his career.


Fans and colleagues have filled Twitter threads with clips of his movies and photos.
American actor Lewis Tan said on Twitter: “A true action legend. Your films are eternal and your energy an inspiration. #SonnyChiba #RIP.”

The Japanese TV personality and comedian Tsutomu Sekine, who is known for mimicking Chiba’s karate style, also paid tribute to the martial arts legend.

“It was an honour to impersonate Mr Chiba and to be recognised by him personally,” Sekine said, according to the Kyodo news agency, adding that that he had long been a fan of films and TV dramas.

Chiba is survived by his three children, Juri Manase, Mackenyu Arata and Gordon Maeda – all actors.


S.S/The Guardian







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