February 16, 1931
Nakama, Fukuoka, Japan
|Died||November 10, 2014 (aged 83)|
|Alma mater||Meiji University|
|Height||1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)|
Chiemi Eri (m. 1959–1971)
Ken Takakura (高倉 健 Takakura Ken), born Goichi Oda (小田 剛一 Oda Gōichi, February 16, 1931 – November 10, 2014), was a Japanese actor and singer who appeared in over 200 films. Affectionately referred to as "Ken-san" by audiences, he was best known for his brooding style and the stoic presence he brought to his roles. He won the Japan Academy Prize for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role four times, more than any other actor. Takakura additionally received the Japanese Medal of Honor with purple ribbon in 1998, the Person of Cultural Merit award in 2006, and the Order of Culture in 2013.
Life and career
Takakura was born in Nakama, Fukuoka in 1931. He attended Tochiku High School in nearby Yahata City where he was a member of the boxing team and English society. It was around this time that he gained his streetwise swagger and tough-guy persona watching yakuza movies. This subject was covered in one of his most famous movies, Showa Zankyo-den (Remnants of Chivalry in the Showa Era), in which he played an honorable old-school yakuza among the violent post-war gangs. After graduating from Meiji University in Tokyo, Takakura attended an audition on impulse in 1955 at the Toei Film Company while applying for a managerial position.
Toei found a natural in Takakura as he debuted with Denko Karate Uchi (Lightning Karate Blow) in 1956. In 1959 he married singer Chiemi Eri, but divorced in 1971. His breakout role would be in the 1965 film Abashiri Prison, and its sequel Abashiri Bangaichi: Bokyohen (Abashiri Prison: Longing for Home, also 1965), in which he played an ex-con antihero. By the time Takakura left Toei in 1976, he had appeared in over 180 films.
He gained international recognition after starring in the 1970 war film Too Late the Hero as the cunning Imperial Japanese Major Yamaguchi, the 1974 Sydney Pollack sleeper hit The Yakuza with Robert Mitchum, and is probably best known in the West for his role in Ridley Scott's Black Rain (1989) where he surprises American cops played by Michael Douglas and Andy García with the line, "I do speak fucking English". He again appeared to Western audiences with the 1992 Fred Schepisi comedy Mr. Baseball starring Tom Selleck.
Takakura was one of the few Japanese actors who saw popularity in China, due to his appearance in Junya Satō's 1976 crime drama Kimi yo Fundo no Kawa o Watare (known in some territories as Manhunt), the first foreign film shown after the Cultural Revolution.
He appeared in three films since 2000: Hotaru (ホタル The Firefly) in May 2001, Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, by Chinese director Zhang Yimou, in late December 2005, and Yasuo Furuhata's Anata e (Dearest) in late August 2012, after a six-year hiatus. He died of lymphoma on November 10, 2014. Shintaro Ishihara described him as "the last big star (in Japan)." A huge number of Chinese internet users expressed their sympathies and condolences, including many celebrities in the Chinese movie industry. The spokesman of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hong Lei said that Takakura made significant contributions to the cultural exchange between China and Japan.
A documentary based on Takakura's life entitled Ken San premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and was released in Japanese theaters on August 20, 2016. It was directed by photographer Yuichi Hibi and features interviews with filmmakers and actors such as Martin Scorsese, Paul Schrader, Michael Douglas, John Woo, and Yoji Yamada.
|1963||Theater of Life: Hishakaku||Tadashi Sawashima||Lead role|
|1964||Jakoman and Tetsu||Tetsu||Kinji Fukasaku||Lead role|
|Wolves, Pigs and Men||Jirō||Kinji Fukasaku|
|1965||A Fugitive from the Past||Detective Ajimura||Tomu Uchida|
|Abashiri Prison||Teruo Ishii||Lead role|
|1968||The Drifting Avenger||Junya Sato||Lead role|
|1970||Too Late the Hero||Major Yamaguchi||Robert Aldrich||Anglo-American film|
|1973||Golgo 13||Golgo 13||Junya Sato||Lead role|
|Yamaguchi-gumi Sandaime||Kazuo Taoka||Kōichi Saitō||Lead role|
|1974||The Homeless||Kōichi Saitō||Lead role|
|1975||The Bullet Train||Junya Sato||Lead role|
|The Yakuza||Sydney Pollack||American film|
|1976||Kimi yo Fundo no Kawa o Watare||Junya Sato||Lead role|
|1977||Mount Hakkoda||Captain Tokushima||Shirō Moritani||Lead role|
|The Yellow Handkerchief||Yusaku Shima||Yoji Yamada||Lead role|
|1978||Never Give Up||Junya Sato||Lead role|
|1980||A Distant Cry from Spring||Kōsaku Tajima||Yoji Yamada||Lead role|
|Dōran||Shirō Moritani||Lead role|
|1981||Station||Eiji Mikami||Yasuo Furuhata||Lead role|
|1983||Izakaya Chōji||Chōji||Yasuo Furuhata||Lead role|
|Antarctica||Akira Ushioda||Koreyoshi Kurahara||Lead role|
|1985||Yasha||Shūji||Yasuo Furuhata||Lead role|
|1989||Aun||Shūzō Kadokura||Yasuo Furuhata||Lead role|
|Black Rain||Masahiro Matsumoto||Ridley Scott||American film|
|1992||Mr. Baseball||Uchiyama||Fred Schepisi||American film|
|1994||47 Ronin||Ōishi Kuranosuke||Kon Ichikawa||Lead role|
|1998||See You||Honma||Koreyoshi Kurahara||Lead role|
|1999||Railroad Man||Otomatsu Satō||Yasuo Furuhata||Lead role|
|2001||The Firefly||Yasuo Furuhata||Lead role|
|2005||Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles||Zhang Yimou||Lead role, Chinese film|
|2012||Dearest||Eiji Kurashima||Yasuo Furuhata||Lead role|
- Japanese Medal of Honor (Purple Ribbon) (1998)
- Person of Cultural Merit (2006)
- Order of Culture (2013)
- Junior Third Rank (2014; posthumous)
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- Brasor, Philip. "Why Japanese media still kowtow to Ken Takakura". The Japan Times. The Japan Times. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
- Deleon, Alex. "KEN SAN, A towering documentary from Japan was thinly Attended at Cannes". FilmFestivals. M21 Entertainment. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
- "Nippon Akademī-shō kōshiki saito" 日本アカデミー賞公式サイト (in Japanese). Japan Academy Prize Association. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
- "Dai 37 kai Nippon Akademī-shō kōshiki saito" 第37回日本アカデミー賞協会栄誉賞 [37th Japan Academy Prize List] (in Japanese). Japan Academy Prize Association. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
- "Burū Ribon-shō rekidai jushō ichiran" ブルーリボン賞歴代受賞一覧 [Blue Ribbon Awards Previous Winners List]. Cinema Hochi (in Japanese). Yomiuri Shimbun. Archived from the original on 3 February 2013. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
- Nakada, Ayako; Shima, Yasuhiko (4 November 2013). "Actor Ken Takakura among 5 presented with top culture award". Asahi Shimbun. Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2014.