Sonny Chiba, Martial Arts Icon and ‘Kill Bill’ Actor, Mourned After Dying at 82 From COVID-19 Complications

Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba, the Japanese actor and martial arts icon who appeared in over 200 productions including 'Kill Bill​​​​​​​,' has died age 82.

Sonny Chiba

Image via Getty/Albert L. Ortega

Sonny Chiba

Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba, the Japanese actor and martial arts icon who appeared in over 200 productions including Kill Bill, has died at age 82.

Per Variety, Chiba’s agent confirmed that the actor died on Thursday due to complications from COVID-19.

Born Sadaho Maeda in Fukuoka, Japan in 1939, Chiba is perhaps best known to Western audiences as Hattori Hanzō in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Volume 1, which he also worked on as a fight choreographer. Chiba got his start acting in the ’60s, but he was at his most prolific during the Japanese exploitation wave of the ’70s.

He didn’t just work in film, however, leading a number of TV shows including The Bodyguard. A black belt in kendo, judo, shorinji kempo, ninjutsu, goju-ryu karate, and kyokushin karate, Sonny was known for flexing his martial arts talents in a good portion of his roles. 

The great Sonny Chiba passed away today at age 82, another victim of Covid-19. A martial arts legend with six black belts who started out in tokusatsu TV, Chiba made over 120 movies for Toei and was Japan's most popular action star for decades. Watch one of his films today. 🤜🏻💔

— Ted Geoghegan (@tedgeoghegan) August 19, 2021

Aside from his integral role in Kill Bill, Chiba made a brief appearance in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, starred in the home video staples The Street Fighter and Sister Street Fighter, and was the lead in 1975’s bizarre cult favorite Wolf Guy. He was also a regular collaborator of Battle Royale director Kinji Fukasaku, starring in Doberman CopVirus, and the beloved Battles Without Honor and Humanity series.

Read what fans have to say about the loss of the charismatic actor and martial arts legend below.

RIP Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba. The Street Fighter. Kill Bill Vol. 1. Message From Space. Golgo 13. Always so epic. He was 82. #千葉真一

— Patrick Macias (@Patrick_Macias) August 19, 2021

A life well lived.
Look at that super handsome mug.
Shinichi Sonny Chiba.

— Timo Tjahjanto (@Timobros) August 19, 2021

RIP, Sonny Chiba.

The sun goes down.


RIP to the legendary Sonny Chiba 🙏🏼

— ѕнσgυη ѕυρяємє (@TimesSqKungFu) August 19, 2021

A true action legend. Your films are eternal and your energy an inspiration. #SonnyChiba #RIP

— Lewis Tan (@TheLewisTan) August 19, 2021

RIP sonny chiba the 🐐. will never forget the first time i watched the street fighter (1978) which is the yakuza & martial arts film stripped to the purest essential of communication through blunt bodily harm. cut to x-ray of skull crack followed by gushing blood here is unreal

— josh lewis (@thejoshl) August 19, 2021

RIP Sonny Chiba. A superstar who could do anything.

— Justin Decloux (@DeclouxJ) August 19, 2021

RIP #千葉真一 #SonnyChiba 😔 You never dropped the ball, you beautiful man.

— One Perfect HEADshot (@HeadExposure) August 19, 2021

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