Sonny Chiba, Martial Arts Legend and ‘Kill Bill’ Actor, Dies of COVID-19 Complications

The Japanese actor, who also appeared in films like ‘The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift’, developed pneumonia after contracting the virus earlier this month.

AceShowbiz -Japanese actor Sonny Chiba, who was known internationally for his roles in films like “Kill Bill” and “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift“, has passed away. The martial arts legend died at 82 years old after contracting COVID-19.

Chiba, known in Japan as Shinichi Chiba, had been treated for COVID since early this month, his management office, Tokyo-based Astraia, said in a statement released on Friday. He was initially treated at home, but was hospitalized a few days later on August 8 when he developed pneumonia. He died from complications on Thursday, August 19. According to his publicist, Chiba had not been vaccinated.

Born Sadaho Maeda in Fukuoka, Japan, on January 22, 1939, Chiba began studying martial arts when he was a university student under the renowned Kyokushin Karate master Masutatsu “Mas” Oyama. He earned a first-degree black belt in 1965.

He rose to stardom in Japan in the 1960s, portraying samurai, fighters and police detectives, doing many of the stunt scenes himself. He later played Oyama in a trilogy of films, “Champion of Death”, “Karate Bearfighter” and “Karate for Life”, in the late 1970s.

His overseas career took off after he starred in 1974’s film “The Street Fighter”, which became popular in the U.S. Quentin Tarantino listed his works among his “grindhouse,” or low-budget kitsch cinema, favorites. He then cast Chiba in the role of Hattori Hanzo, a master swordsmith in “Kill Bill”. Chiba also appeared in 1991’s Hollywood film “Aces” and several Hong Kong movies.

Chiba’s death is mourned by his international fans. American actor Lewis Tan posted on Twitter, “A true action legend. Your films are eternal and your energy an inspiration. #SonnyChiba #RIP.” New York-based writer and director Ted Geoghegan called him “the great Sonny Chiba,” adding, “Watch one of his films today” followed by images of a fist and a broken heart.

Chiba is survived by his daughter Juri Manase from his first marriage to actress Yoko Nogiwa and sons Mackenyu Arata and Gordon, whom he shared with his second wife Tamami Chiba. All three of his children are actors.

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