The star’s rep confirmed to Fox News that Chiba died of COVID-19 complications on Wednesday in a hospital outside of Tokyo.
The Japanese actor’s career began in 1959, per IMDb, when he appeared on a television series called “Nana-iro kamen” (otherwise known as “Seven Color Mask”). He became a staple in Japanese film – particularly those that allowed him to put his martial arts skills on full display.
In the following years, he’d eventually break into Western cinema and star in both “Kill Bill” films and “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.”
According to Variety, he took up martial arts in 1957 while studying at Nippon Sport Science University. In 1965, he earned a first-degree black belt after studying under karate master Masutatsu “Mas” Oyama before earning a fourth-degree black belt in 1984.
He’d later go on to play his own teacher in three films in the 1970s – “Champion of Death,” “Karate Bearfighter” and “Karate for Life.”
He also held black belts in ninjutsu, shorinji kempo, judo, kendo and goju-ryu karate.
Chiba’s first martial arts film did not come until 1973 when he starred in “Karate Kiba.” The next year’s “The Street Fighter” would see him break into international markets when it was released in the United States – the film was rated X for violence.
In the “Kill Bill” flicks, Chiba played the memorable role of Hattori Hanzo, a sushi shop owner who crafts blades for Uma Thurman’s scorned and vengeful main character. In “Tokyo Drift,” he played a Yakuza boss and an uncle to the film’s main antagonist.
According to Variety, he was set to star in a flick called “Outbreak Z” with Jesse Ventura, Martin Lawrence and Wesley Snipes before the pandemic.
His final role will be in the yet-to-be-released “Bond of Justice: Kizuna.”
He is survived by three children, Juri Manase, 46, Mackenyu Arata, 24, and Gordon Maeda, 21, who are also actors.
Sonny Chiba, ‘Kill Bill’ star and martial arts legend, dead at 82