“Fast & Furious” Actor Sonny Chiba Dies At 82 From Covid-19 Complication
Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba, the Japanese actor and martial arts legend who starred in “The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift” and “Kill Bill,” died on Thursday. He was 82.
Chiba reportedly died from a Covid-19 related disease. Variety reported that it had received confirmation of the news from Chiba’s agent.
Born Sadaho Maeda in Fukuoka, Japan, Chiba was one of the first actors to achieve stardom through his skills in martial arts, initially in Japan and later before an international audience.
Chiba began learning martial arts while at the Nippon Sports Science University in 1957. He studied under karate master Masutatsu “Mas” Oyama and earned a first-degree black belt in 1965. He later played Oyama in a trilogy of films, “Champion of Death,” “Karate Bearfighter” and “Karate for Life,” in the late 1970s. In 1984, he received a fourth-degree black belt. He also held black belts in ninjutsu, shorinji kempo, judo, kendo and goju-ryu karate.
He began his career in film and TV in 1960, taking on the name Shinichi Chiba. His first roles came on Japanese superhero shows “Seven Color Mask,” where he replaced the lead actor, and “Messenger of Allah,” where he played the main character. His first movie roles were in a series of crime thrillers by Japanese director Kinji Fukasaku, with whom he was a frequent collaborator, and the sci-fi film “Invasion of the Neptune Men” in 1961.
Chiba starred in his first martial arts film, “Karate Kiba,” in 1973, and his international breakout role came in 1974’s “The Street Fighter,” which was released in the U.S. by New Line Cinema with an X-rating for its violence.
In Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill Volume 1,” Chiba played Hattori Hanzo, a retired swordsman and owner of a sushi restaurant who crafts a blade for Uma Thurman’s main character. He also appeared in “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” as Kamata, a Yakuza boss and uncle of the main antagonist Takashi (Brian Tee).
Some of Chiba’s other credits included “The Bullet Train,” “Champion of Death,” “The Storm Riders,” “Karate Warriors,” “Doberman Cop,” “Shogun’s Samurai,” “G.I. Samurai” and many more. “Bond of Justice: Kizuna” will be his final, posthumous film role.