Sonny Chiba, an actor, and martial arts legend, died at the age of 82.
Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba seemed to be capable of cracking a skull. Chiba portrays a mercenary who mercilessly crushes thugs’ faces, fractures their bones, and punches them so hard they spit up in horrific gushes in his 1974 worldwide breakthrough film, The Street Fighter. Chiba became a cult icon in the United States after starring in films like the Kill Bill trilogy and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
Sonny Chiba died on Thursday at the age of 82, according to his management firm. Chiba died at a hospital in Chiba Prefecture, Japan, after complications with COVID-19
according to his buddy Ryuji Yamakita, the director and producer of Chiba’s last film.
Sonny Chiba was a well-known Japanese actor who worked closely with the renowned production firm, Toei. With the worldwide release of The Street Fighter, a violent slog into the Japanese underworld that was touted as having the “first X-rated combat sequences in film history” when it was released in the United States, his popularity grew. Sonny Chiba brute-forced his way through unnamed evil men, and the movie lived up to its promise. (Warning: Chiba knocks out an opponent’s teeth in the footage below.)
Chiba, who made a reference to Chiba in 1993’s True Romance, stole the famous Ezekiel 25:17 speech from the opening of a Chiba film in Pulp Fiction, and finally cast him as the retired swordsmith Hattori Hanzo in the Kill Bill films, was perhaps Chiba’s biggest supporter in the United States.
Outside of acting, Chiba founded the Japan Action Club, where he taught aspiring martial artists and stunt performers. He told the audience at GalaxyCon Raleigh in 2019 that he was motivated by his love of American action movies. People mistook the word “action” in the group’s name for “action flicks,” he claimed. He intended it to allude to filmmaking in general, as in lights, camera, action, he said.