Veteran Japanese actor Ken Takakura has died at the age of 83 in Tokyo hospital.
Takakura, known as Japan’s “Clint Eastwood,” forged a reputation playing tough guys in a string of action and Yakuza films. He also starred opposite Michael Douglas as a tough Japanese cop in Ridley Scott’s 1989 Black Rain.
That film wasn’t his only Western role. He also starred in Sydney Pollack’s 1974 The Yakuza, co-written by Pollack, Leonard Schrader and Robert Towne; as well as opposite Tom Selleck in Fred Schepisi’s 1992 comedy Mr Baseball.
Born on February 16, 1931, Takakura first entered the iconic Toei studio in 1955 after graduating from university. His breakout role was as an escaped prisoner in Teruo Ishii’s 1965 hit Abashiri Prison, loosely based on Stanley Kramer’s 1958 The Defiant Ones.
Affectionately known as “Ken-San” by friends and fans, Takakura appeared in a string of noteworthy films over the years, including Yoji Yamada’s The Yellow Handkerchief and Yasuo Furuhata’s The Railway Man, for which he won the best actor prize at the Montreal World Film Festival.
Takakura also went on to play a lead role in Chinese director Zhang Yimou’s 2005 film Riding Alone For Thousands Of Miles.
His last film in 2012 reunited him with Furuhata in Dearest, playing a retired prison counselor making a journey of remembrance to the port where his dead wife was born.
Across Japan there was an outpouring of grief on social media and public broadcasters.
Japan’s national broadcaster NHK opened its news program at noon with news of his death while leading daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun called him “one of Japan’s greatest actors.”
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