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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.
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 Cop, Virus, 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.