Ken Takakura


Actor

About

Birth Place
Japan
Born
February 16, 1931

Biography

Like American film star John Wayne, Ken Takakura has defined the Japanese man and has had a prolific superstar film career, appearing in more than 200 films, shifting from "yakuza" or crime-action films to more mainstream fare. He thrice received the Japanese Academy Award as Best Actor and has on occasion appeared in English-language films. A graduate of Meiji University, Takakura studi...

Notes

"Ken Takakura is the most important actor in Japan. He has been the only superstar and undisputed king of Japanese movies. Like John Wayne or James Dean, he is much more than an actor. Takakura is one of the most important forces in post-war Japan: because of the level of popular culture, he singlehandedly redefined the role of the Japanese man for post-war society. In short, he showed Japan how to live in the modern world." --Leonard Schrader, co-writer, "The Yakuza".

Biography

Like American film star John Wayne, Ken Takakura has defined the Japanese man and has had a prolific superstar film career, appearing in more than 200 films, shifting from "yakuza" or crime-action films to more mainstream fare. He thrice received the Japanese Academy Award as Best Actor and has on occasion appeared in English-language films. A graduate of Meiji University, Takakura studied commerce, but turned to acting soon after graduation, making his screen debut in 1955 in "Denko Karate-uchi." He toiled for about a decade before becoming a bona fide star with a string of Japanese hits in the mid-60s, more frequently playing men of the current era rather than mythical samurai or heroic icons of the glory days. When legendary Hollywood director Robert Aldrich needed an actor to play the Japanese officer pursuing Cliff Robertson and Michael Caine in "Too Late the Hero" (1970), he turned to Takakura, who stole the picture. He did the same playing a crime boss for Sydney Pollack in his next English-language effort, "The Yakuza" (1975). Takakura did not pursue any ongoing connection with Hollywood, but rather continued to make Japanese hits, including "Eki/Station" (1981), "Antarctica" (1982), and "A Un/Buddies" (1989), films with little release in the West. Hollywood called again in 1989 with "Black Rain," in which Takakura was Andy Garcia's Japanese police connection, and for "Mr. Baseball" (1992), in which Takakura instructs Tom Selleck on how to play an American game in a foreign land. Takakura next appeared in Kon Ichikawa's international hit "47 Ronin" (1994). The drama "Railroad Man" (1999) and Yasuo Furuhata's acclaimed "The Firefly" (2001) followed. Zhang Yimou's "Riding Alone For Thousands of Miles" (2005) and Furuhata's "Dearest" (2012) proved to be the semi-retired Takakura's final films. Ken Takakura died of lymphoma on November 10, 2014, at the age of 83.

Life Events

1955

Feature film debut in "Denko Karate-uchi"

1970

First appearance in a US feature, "Too Late the Hero"

1975

Had featured role in "The Yakuza"

1977

Became star of Japanese mainstream films with "Hakkodasan" and "The Yellow Handkerchief"

1989

Starred in "Black Rain"

1992

Butted heads with Tom Selleck in "Mr. Baseball"

1999

Had leading role in "Poppoya"

2006

Starred in Yimou Zhang's "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles"

Videos

Movie Clip

Yakuza, The (1974) - You Think I'm Too Old? First appearance of top-billed Robert Mitchum, in Los Angeles, as low-energy detective and WWII vet Harry, taking a call from war buddy and Tokyo-based businessman Tanner (Brian Keith), who’s just been threatened by Japanese gangsters, who mentions an old love interest (Keiko Kishi), in The Yakuza, 1974.
Yakuza, The (1974) - Justice, Peace And Humanity Complex exposition by director Sydney Pollack, from the screenplay by Leonard and Paul Schrader and Robert Towne, as Japanese-resident American WWII vet Wheat (Herb Edelman) explains for youngster Dusty (Richard Jordan), the son of another war-buddy, the background of Harry (Robert Mitchum), with whom he’s traveling, and his old-flame Eiko (Keiko Kishi), in The Yakuza, 1974.
Yakuza, The (1974) - Get Rid Of Thinking Director and producer Sydney Pollack introduces the celebrated Japanese actor Ken Takakura, in only his second Hollywood picture and his first substantial role, as Kendo martial arts guru and underworld figure Tanaka Ken, visited in Kyoto by American private eye and WWII vet Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum), to whom he owes a profound family debt, in The Yakuza, 1974.
Yakuza, The (1974) - Open, A Losing Number Stylish framing and staging in the opening, compromised maybe by dorky 1970's men's fashion which has, evidently, consumed Tokyo, with Kyosuke Machida as Japanese mob messenger Kato performing a rite (with Akiyama Masaru) in service of chieftan Tono (Eiji Okada), in Sydney Pollack's often-overlooked The Yakuza, 1974, starring Robert Mitchum and Ken Takakura.

Bibliography

Notes

"Ken Takakura is the most important actor in Japan. He has been the only superstar and undisputed king of Japanese movies. Like John Wayne or James Dean, he is much more than an actor. Takakura is one of the most important forces in post-war Japan: because of the level of popular culture, he singlehandedly redefined the role of the Japanese man for post-war society. In short, he showed Japan how to live in the modern world." --Leonard Schrader, co-writer, "The Yakuza".