R.I.P. Sonny Chiba, Legendary Martial Artist and Kill Bill Actor Dead at 82 Due to COVID-19

Chiba appeared in hundreds of Japanese productions, as well as Kill Bill and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

rip sonny chiba kill bill fast and furious dead cause of death covid-19

Legendary martial artist Sonny Chiba, who appeared in hundreds of Japanese productions and gained international recognition for his work in Kill Bill and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, has died at 82 from complications caused by COVID-19. According to Deadline and Japan’s Oricon News, he entered the hospital on August 8th with breathing difficulties and passed away on August 19th.

Born in 1939, Chiba would ultimately earn Black Belts in six different martial disciplines, including two forms of karate and one each in judo, kendo, and ninjutsu. In 1960 he made his screen debut in Seven Color Mask, and in 1968 he became a household name in Japan with the popular detective series Key Hunter. He would later branch out into stunt choreography and occasionally directing, in total accumulating over 125 credits for legendary Tohei Studios alone.

Chiba had been a favorite actor of Quentin Tarantino’s for decades. In 1993’s True Romance (written by Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott), Christian Slater’s character is a big fan of Chiba’s work, and Tarantino finally collaborated with Chiba in 2003’s Kill Bill. Chiba played retired samurai Hattori Hanzō, in a role that paid homage to his work as Hanzō in the 1980s TV series Shadow Warriors.

Chiba again delighted international audiences with his work as Boss Kamata in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. He remained a constant presence on screens large and small into his seventies, although his pace had slowed down a bit in recent years. His final performance will come in Bond of Justice: Kizuna, which is currently in post-production and is expected to see a release later this year.

His passing was mourned on social media. Legendary video game designer Hideo Kojima wrote, “RIP, Sonny Chiba. The sun goes down.” Fellow martial artist and Mortal Kombat actor Lewis Tan said, “A true action legend. Your films are eternal and your energy an inspiration.” Horror and action director Timo Tjahjanto wrote a moving eulogy: “There’s over acting and then there’s maximal performance. Sonny Chiba doesn’t act, his whole performance is blood boiling, muscles flexed and heart beating at 200 bpm for your entertainment. The man is a literal Machine.” Check out some of the remembrances below.


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