Japanese actor and martial arts expert Sonny Chiba, who appeared in the seminal 2003 Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill, has died from Covid-19 complications. He was 82.
Chiba died on Thursday at a hospital in Kimitsu in south-west Japan from pneumonia caused by Covid-19, the country's Oricon News said. He had been in hospital since August 8.
A skilled martial artist, Chiba starred in a many films in Japan in the 1960s. He made a name for himself in television, particularly in the spy thriller show Key Hunter (1968-1973) and became known internationally for his martial arts skills in the films Battles Without Honour and Humanity: Deadly Fight in Hiroshima (1973) and The Street Fighter (1974), according to The Japan Times.
Tarantino, a fan, even wrote Chiba into the script for his 1993 film True Romance, in which lead character Christian Slater is seen watching Chiba films in a pivotal scene. Chiba also finds mention in Pulp Fiction (1994), considered by many to be Tarantino's masterpiece. The acclaimed directed would eventually cast him in Kill Bill 10 years later, as the owner of a sushi restaurant and retired samurai sword craftsman.
Chiba also starred in the 2006 Hollywood film The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
Born Sadaho Maeda in Fukuoka, Japan, on January 22, 1939, Chiba began learning martial arts while at the Nippon Sports Science University in 1957. He studied under karate master Masutatsu Oyama and earned a first-degree black belt in 1965. In 1984, he received a fourth-degree black belt. He also held black belts in ninjutsu, shorinji kempo, judo, kendo and goju-ryu karate, according to Variety.
Chiba also established the Japan Action Club in 1970, a training school for aspiring martial arts film actors, and choreographed fight scenes in movies later in his career.