LOS ANGELES – Japan Today
Sonny Chiba, a Japanese martial arts expert and actor who appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill,” has died from COVID-19 complications at a hospital in Chiba Prefecture, Japan, his agent said Thursday. He was 82.
“Sonny passed away from COVID-19 yesterday,” Timothy Beal told AFP. “Such tragic news. He was a great friend and an awesome client. Such a humble, caring and friendly man.”
Kyodo News reported Chiba died of pneumonia associated with COVID-19 after having been hospitalized on Aug 8. He had not been vaccinated, Kyodo reported.
Born Sadaho Maeda in 1939 in Fukuoka, in the southwest of Japan, Chiba studied martial arts throughout the 1960s, becoming a particular expert in karate.
His skills landed him numerous roles in Japanese films and television series, including with the influential Toei studio, who recruited him in a competition for new talent.
In the wake of Bruce Lee’s worldwide success, Chiba made a name for himself outside Japan as an ultra-violent henchman in “The Street Fighter” trilogy.
That performance left an impression on a youthful Tarantino, who would later cast him to play samurai-turned-sushi-chef Hattori Hanzo, who forges a sword to help Uma Thurman in her quest for revenge in “Kill Bill.”
In 2006, Chiba also had a role in “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.”
Beal said Chiba had been due to work on “Outbreak Z,” a zombie movie starring Wesley Snipes.