Family & Companions
Although he had originally planned to work in films as an assistant cameraman, Toshiro Mifune was auditioned as an actor, a fortuitous career shift that helped change the course of Japanese cinematic history. He appeared in many of the great post-war Japanese films, most notably those of director Akira Kurosawa.
The collaboration between Kurosawa and Mifune began with the film "Drunken Angel" (1948) and continued with such notable works as "Rashomon" (1950), "Seven Samurai" (1954), "Throne of Blood" (1957), "Yojimbo" (1961) and "Red Beard" (1965). The actor also appeared in such varied Japanese films as Senkichi Taniguchi's "Snow Trail" (1947), Kenji Mizoguchi's "The Life of Oharu" (1952), Hiroshi Inagaki's samurai trilogy on Miyamoto Musashi (1954-56) and his "The Rickshaw Man" (1958), in addition to Masaki Kobayashi's "Rebellion" (1967). Mifune also starred in films by non-Japanese directors, including Ismael Rodriguez's "The Important Man" (1961), John Frankenheimer's "Grand Prix" (1966) and "The Challenge" (l982), John Boorman's "Hell in the Pacific" (1968), Terence Young's "Red Sun" (1971), Spielberg's "1941" (1979) and Jerry London's TV miniseries "Shogun" (NBC, 1980).
Mifune's roles tended to fall within the area described in kabuki terms as the "tateyaku" style, that of the forceful, disciplined leading man, in contrast to the softer and more weak-willed "nimaime" male. His fast-paced and explosive style was not all bluster and swordplay; they were infused with a subtle degree of sensitivity and psychological complexity into even the most thick-skinned warrior characters. In the course of his career, Mifune undertook roles ranging from a modern-day cop to a wandering, masterless samurai, from a Japanese version of Macbeth to a drunken Indian peasant. He excelled at playing a wealthy industrialist, a ruthless bandit, a compassionate physician, an aged obsessive and a day laborer.
With a talent for both drama and comedy, Mifune refined, but never totally lost, his earlier "angry young man" demeanor. He twice received the Best Actor Award at the Venice Film Festival and was the recipient of the 1988 Kawakita Award, presented to those who have contributed significantly to Japanese cinema. In 1963, the actor founded his own production company, Mifune Productions. Mifune tried his hand at directing with "The Legacy of the 500,000" (1963), but its failure led him to concentrate his energies on performing and his Mifune Productions specialized in making films for TV.
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made film debut in small role in a film directed by Akira Kurosawa
Cast by Kurosawa in "The Drunken Angel"; played a gangster suffering with tuberculosis
Starred in Kurosawa's "Rashomon"
Played Kikuchiyo in "The Seven Samaurai"
Starred in "Throne of Blood", Kurosawa's version of Shakespeare's "Macbeth"
Returned to samaurai roles in "Yojimbo"
Formed Mifune Productions
Made feature directorial debut, "The Legacy of the 500,000"
Made last film with Kurosawa, "Red Beard"
Teamed with Lee Marvin in "Hell in the Pacific", directed by John Boorman
Played the submarine commander in Steven Spielberg's "1941"
Starred as the warlord Toranaga in the NBC miniseries "Shogun"
Final film role in "Deep River"