December 10, 1933
Kobe, Hyōgo, Empire of Japan
July 21, 2006 (aged 72)|
Somis, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Esophageal cancer|
|Other names||Mako Iwamatsu|
|Alma mater||Pasadena Playhouse|
|Occupation||Actor, voice actor, singer|
Makoto Iwamatsu (岩松誠 Iwamatsu Makoto, December 10, 1933 – July 21, 2006) was a Japanese American actor, voice actor and singer. Almost all of his acting roles credited him as Mako. He is best known for his roles as Po-Han in The Sand Pebbles (1966) (for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor), Akiro the Wizard in Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Conan the Destroyer (1984) and Kungo Tsarong in Seven Years in Tibet (1997). He was part of the original cast of Stephen Sondheim's 1976 Broadway musical Pacific Overtures, which earned him a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical.
Later in his career he became well known for his voice-over roles like Aku in Samurai Jack (2001–2004) and Uncle Iroh in Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005–2006). He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7095 Hollywood Blvd.
Mako was born Makoto Iwamatsu in Kobe, Japan, the son of noted children's book authors and illustrators Atsushi Iwamatsu and Tomoe Sasako. In 1939 his parents, who were political dissidents, moved to the United States, leaving Mako in the care of his grandmother. After the war, his parents were able to arrange for him to join them in 1949. He enlisted in the military in the 1950s and became a naturalized American citizen in 1956. When Mako first joined his parents in the United States, he studied architecture. During his military service, he discovered his theatrical talent, and trained at the Pasadena Community Playhouse.
Mako's first film role was in the film Never So Few (1959). He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as engine-room coolie Po-Han in the film The Sand Pebbles (1966). Other roles include the Chinese contract laborer Mun Ki in the epic movie The Hawaiians (1970) starring Charlton Heston and Tina Chen; Oomiak, the Eskimo guide, in Disney's "Island at the Top of the World" (1974); Yuen Chung in the film The Killer Elite (1975) directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring James Caan, Robert Duvall, and the famous martial artist Takayuki Kubota; the sorcerer Nakano in Highlander III: The Sorcerer; Jackie Chan's uncle/sifu in Chan's first American movie The Big Brawl; the wizard Akiro opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in the two Conan movies Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer; the confidant to Chuck Norris' rogue cop in the thriller An Eye for an Eye (1982); the Japanese spy in the comedy Under the Rainbow; Yoshida-san in Rising Sun; Mr. Lee in Sidekicks; Kanemitsu in RoboCop 3 (1993); Kungo Tsarong in Seven Years in Tibet; and Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto in the epic drama Pearl Harbor (2001). He also had a role in Bulletproof Monk.
In 2005, Mako had a cameo role in Memoirs of a Geisha. Mako's last leading role was in the film Cages (2005), written and directed by Graham Streeter. He also appeared in some Japanese television dramas and films, such as Masahiro Shinoda's Owls' Castle and Takashi Miike's The Bird People in China. In 1990, he had a minor role in the psychological thriller Pacific Heights along with Matthew Modine, Melanie Griffith and Michael Keaton.
Mako has a motion picture star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7095 Hollywood Blvd. He was among the actors, producers and directors interviewed in the 2006 documentary The Slanted Screen, directed by Jeff Adachi, about the representation of Asian and Asian American men in Hollywood.
In 1965, frustrated by the limited roles available to himself and other Asian American actors, Mako and six others formed the East West Players theatre company, first performing out of a church basement. The company is one of the earliest Asian-American theatre organizations, and not only provided a venue for Asian American actors to train and perform, but also nurtured many Asian American playwrights. During the company's 1981 season, to coincide with the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians' hearings on redress, Mako exclusively showed plays about the Japanese American incarceration. He remained artistic director of the company until 1989.
Mako's Broadway career included creating the roles of the Reciter, the shōgun, and the Chicago-based inventor of the rickshaw, in the original 1976 production of Stephen Sondheim's Broadway musical Pacific Overtures, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. Mako's landlord at the time, Jerry Orbach, was also nominated for his role in Chicago; both lost, however, to George Rose from the revival of My Fair Lady. Mako recalled being awoken at 4:30 the morning after the Tony ceremony by Orbach, who was shouting from the floor below: "Hey, Mako! What the f--- happened? I can't believe it; we lost to a f------ revival!". He also starred in the limited run of the play Shimada in 1992.
Mako appeared on the television series McHale's Navy several times, playing Imperial Japanese officers, soldiers and sailors. He later appeared on the television series M*A*S*H, playing multiple roles such as a Chinese doctor, North Korean soldier, a South Korean Major medical doctor and a South Korean Lieutenant. He appeared in an episode of the series Kung Fu as Wong Ti Lu in 1972 (“The Tide”). In 1974, he appeared on Ironside episode "Terror on Grant Avenue". He appeared as a Japanese chef in the Columbo episode "Murder Under Glass" (1978). He was the blind philosopher Li Sung in two episodes of the television series The Incredible Hulk. He also appeared on an episode of Magnum, P.I. called "The Arrow That Is Not Aimed" (1983). Mako also appeared in an episode of the television series F Troop. He appeared as Lo Sing, fighting Bruce Lee's Kato character in The Green Hornet episode "The Preying Mantis". He played the character Lin Duk Coo in an episode of The A-Team. He guest-starred in an episode of season one of Frasier as well as in an episode of Tour of Duty as a Vietnamese scout. He also was a guest star in the Monk episode "Mr. Monk vs. The Cobra". He guest-starred in the Walker, Texas Ranger episode "Black Dragons" (2000), and appeared on the television series Charmed in 2003, creating magic for Chris (played by Drew Fuller). His last "made-for-TV" movie appears to be Rise: Blood Hunter (2007).
He was the voice actor of Aku, the main antagonist in the animated series Samurai Jack (of which the actor was also given a posthumous credit as the villain's voice-over narration of the original intro [Seasons 1-4] in the final episode ["Episode CI"]), both Achoo (a parody of Aku) and the annoying alarm clock known as Happy Cat in Duck Dodgers, the introductory voice for the ending theme of Dexter's Laboratory and Iroh in Avatar: The Last Airbender. He died in the middle of the second season, and would later have an episode dedicated to him in season two ("The Tales of Ba Sing Se"). He had a guest appearance in the Nickelodeon movie Rugrats in Paris: The Movie as the boss of Coco. He guest-starred in The West Wing episode "A Good Day" as an economics professor and former rival of President Bartlet.
Mako made his video game debut with the role of the goblin Grubjub in Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader (2003). In the same year, he also voiced General Han Yu Kim in True Crime: Streets of LA, Masataka Shima in Medal of Honor: Rising Sun, and various voices in Secret Weapons Over Normandy. In 2004, Mako voiced the narrator in the game Wrath Unleashed, and Aku in Samurai Jack: The Shadow of Aku.
Mako was married to actress Shizuko Hoshi, with whom he had two daughters (Mimosa and Sala—both of whom are actresses) and three grandchildren.
Mako died in Somis, California, on July 21, 2006, at age 72, from esophageal cancer. One day before his death, Mako had been confirmed to star in the film TMNT as the voice of Splinter. Kevin Munroe, director of the film, confirmed that Mako had completed his recording. The producers dedicated the finished film to Mako.
During the Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Tales of Ba Sing Se", the segment titled "The Tale of Iroh" features a dedication to Mako, the voice actor for Iroh for seasons one and two. In the sequel series The Legend of Korra, a lead male character was named after him (voiced by David Faustino).
|1959||Never So Few||Soldier in the hospital||Uncredited|
|1965||McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force||Japanese Submarine Captain||Uncredited|
|1966||The Ugly Dachshund||Kenji|
|The Sand Pebbles||Po-han||Nominated - Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor|
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor
|1968||The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell||Calvin Coolidge Ishimura|
|1969||The Great Bank Robbery||Secret Agent Fong|
|1970||The Hawaiians||Mun Ki|
|1972||Yokohama Mama||Rooster (voice)||Short film|
|1974||The Island at the Top of the World||Oomiak|
|The Killer Elite||Yuen Chung|
|1980||Hito Hata: Raise the Banner||Oda|
|The Big Brawl||Herbert|
|1981||Under the Rainbow||Nakomuri|
|An Eye for an Eye||James Chan|
|The Bushido Blade||Enjiro|
|1982||Conan the Barbarian||Akiro the Wizard|
|1984||Conan the Destroyer||Akiro the Wizard|
|1986||Behind Enemy Lines||Capt. Vinh|
|Armed Response||Akira Tanaka|
|Tucker: The Man and His Dream||Jimmy|
|The Wash||Nobu Matsumoto|
|1989||An Unremarkable Life||Max Chin|
|1990||Pu guang ren wu||Trang|
|Taking Care of Business||Mr. Sakamoto|
|Pacific Heights||Toshio Watanabe|
|1991||The Perfect Weapon||Kim|
|Sutoroberi rodo||Frank Machida|
|My Samurai||Mr. Tszing|
|1994||Red Sun Rising||Buntoro Iga|
|A Dangerous Place||Sensei|
|Highlander III: The Sorcerer||Nakano|
|1995||Midnight Man||Buun Som|
|Crying Freeman||Shudo Shimazaki|
|1996||Balance of Power||Todo Matsumoto|
|Sworn to Justice||Mr. Young|
|1997||Seven Years in Tibet||Kungo Tsarong|
|1998||The Bird People in China||Shen|
|Owls' Castle||Toyotomi Hideyoshi|
|2000||Rugrats in Paris: The Movie||Mr. Yamaguchi (voice)|
|Talk to Taka||Mr. Hiro||Short film|
|2001||Pearl Harbor||Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto|
|2002||Cruel Game||Straw Hat|
|2003||Bulletproof Monk||Mr. Kojima|
|Bus Story||Father Christmas||Short film|
|Memoirs of a Geisha||Sakamoto|
|2007||TMNT||Master Splinter (voice)||Posthumous release|
|Rise: Blood Hunter||Poe||Posthumous release|
|1962||The Lloyd Bridges Show||Takahashi||Episode: "Yankee Stay Here"|
|1962–1963||Ensign O'Toole||Various roles||3 episodes|
|1962–1965||McHale's Navy||Various roles||9 episodes|
|1963||The Gallant Men||Frank Fakuda||Episode: "One Puka Puka"|
|77 Sunset Strip||Iko Nakayama||Episode: "Stranger from the Sea"|
|1964||Arrest and Trial||Kyoto||Episode: "Signals of an Ancient Flame"|
|1964–1965||Broadside||Japanese Commander / Captain Osato||2 episodes|
|Burke's Law||Pete / Happy Tuava||2 episodes|
|1965||I Dream of Jeannie||Kato||Episode: "Jeannie and the Marriage Caper"|
|Gidget||Casey||Episode: "The War Between Men, Women and Gidget"|
|The Wackiest Ship in the Army||T. Vushikori / Captain Kulijame||2 episodes|
|1965–1966||I Spy||Jimmy / Baby Face||3 episodes|
|1966||The Green Hornet||Low Sing||Episode: "The Praying Mantis"|
|1966, 1968||The F.B.I.||Angry Youth / Yoshimura||2 episodes|
|1967||The Time Tunnel||Lt. Nakamura||Episode: "Kill Two by Two"|
|F Troop||Samurai Warrior||Episode: "From Karate with Love"|
|Vacation Playhouse||Simba||Episode: "Alfred of the Amazon"|
|1968||The Big Valley||Wong Lo||Episode: "Rimfire"|
|1970||The Challenge||Yuro||Television film|
|1971||If Tomorrow Comes||Tadashi||Television film|
|1972||The Streets of San Francisco||Kenji||Episode: "Pilot"|
|Room 222||Mr. Shigematsu||Episode: "Just Call Me Mr. Shigematsu"|
|Anna and the King||Sanum||Episode: "The King and the Egg"|
|1973||Kung Fu||Wong Ti Lu||Episode: "The Tide"|
|Love, American Style||Jack||Episode: "Love and the Fortunate Cookie"|
|1974–1980||M*A*S*H||Various roles||4 episodes|
|1974||Ironside||Phil||Episode: "Terror on Grant Avenue"|
|Mannix||Tami Okada||Episode: "Enter Tami Okada"|
|Judge Dee and the Monastery Murders||Tao Gan||Television film|
|1976||Hawaii Five-O||Kazuo Tahashi||Episode: "Legacy of Terror"|
|Farewell to Manzanar||Fukimoto||Television film|
|Visions||Masu Murakami||Episode: "Gold Watch"|
|1977, 1982||Quincy, M.E.||Mr. Yamaguchi / John Moroshima||Episode: "Touch of Death"|
|1978||Columbo||Kanji Ousu||Episode: "Murder Under Glass"|
|1978–1979||The Incredible Hulk||Li Sung||2 episodes|
|Wonder Woman||Mr. Brown||Episode: "Going, Going, Gone"|
|Salvage 1||Toshiro||Episode: "Shangri-la Lil"|
|When Hell Was in Session||Major Bai||Television film|
|A Man Called Sloane||Tanaka||Episode: "Samurai"|
|1981||Fantasy Island||Kwong Soo Luke||Episode: "The Heroine; The Warrior"|
|1982||Voyagers!||Slave Auctioneer||Episode: "The Travels Of Marco...And Friends"|
|Bring 'Em Back Alive||Tanako||Episode: "The Pied Piper"|
|The Facts of Life||Mr. Wakamatsu||Episode: "The Americanization of Miko"|
|Romance Theatre||Shibata||5 episodes|
|1983||The Gallant Men||Frank Fakuda||Episode: "One Puka Puka"|
|Girls of the White Orchid||Mori||Television film|
|The Last Ninja||Mantaro Sakura||Pilot|
|The A-Team||Lin Duk Coo||Episode: "Recipe for Heavy Bread"|
|Magnum, P.I.||Tozan||Episode: "The Arrow That Is Not Aimed"|
|Greatest American Hero||Master of Flowers||Episode: "Thirty Seconds Over Little Tokyo"|
|Faerie Tale Theatre||Gardener / Minister||Episode: "The Nightingale"|
|1984||Hawaiian Heat||Maj. Taro Oshira||11 episodes|
|1986||Kung Fu: The Movie||The Manchu||Television film|
|Spenser: For Hire||Tommy Nguyen||Episode: "My Brother's Keeper"|
|Tour of Duty||Tran||Episode: "Sitting Ducks"|
|1988||The Equalizer||Jimmy Thanarat||Episode: "Riding the Elephant"|
|1990||Murder in Paradise||Captain Kilalo||Television film|
|Paradise||Kao||Episode: "Dangerous Cargo"|
|The Paradise Club||Mr. Yamamoto||Episode: "The Rotherhithe Project"|
|Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes||Sgt. Moritaki||Television film|
|1991||Lovejoy||Toshiro Tanaka||2 episodes|
|1992||Nightingale||Narrator (voice)||Television film|
|1993||Shaky Ground||Nakamura||Episode: "Stayin' Alive"|
|1994||Frasier||Sam Tanaka||Episode: "Author, Author"|
|1994, 1996||Kung Fu: The Legend Continues||Li Sung||2 episodes|
|1995||Platypus Man||Mr. Loo||Episode: "Dying to Live"|
|1996–2003||Dexter's Laboratory||Narrator (voice)||13 episodes|
|1997, 2000||Walker, Texas Ranger||Dr. Henry Lee / Edward Song||2 episodes|
|1997||Riot||Mr. Lee||Television film; segment: "Gold Mountain"|
|1999||Martial Law||Master Reng||2 episodes|
|7th Heaven||Henry Muranaka||Episode: "Dirty Laundry"|
|2000||The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne||Kajimori||Episode: "The Inquisitor"|
|2001||Diagnosis Murder||Lee Moy||Episode: "The Red's Shoes"|
|2001–2004||Samurai Jack||Aku (voice)||23 episodes|
|2003||Lost at Home||Mr. Li||Episode: "Good Will Hunting"|
|Black Sash||Master Li||6 episodes|
|What's New, Scooby-Doo?||The Ancient One (voice)||Episode: "Big Appetite in Little Tokyo"|
|Charmed||Sorcerer||Episode: "Love's a Witch"|
|2003–2005||Duck Dodgers||Happy Cat / Achoo / Additional voices||4 episodes|
|2004||The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy||Narrator (voice)||Episode: "Test of Time/A Kick in the Asgard"|
|2005||Monk||Master Zi||Episode: "Mr. Monk vs. the Cobra"|
|The West Wing||Dr. Yosh Takahashi||Episode: "A Good Day"|
|Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!||Master Offay (voice)||Episode: "Monster Battle Club Now!"|
|2005–2006||Avatar: The Last Airbender||Uncle Iroh / Additional voices||30 episodes|
|2003||Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader||Grumdjum|
|True Crime: Streets of LA||General Kim|
|Medal of Honor: Rising Sun||Masataka Shima|
|Secret Weapons Over Normandy||Imperial Japanese Voices #1|
|2004||Samurai Jack: The Shadow of Aku||Aku|
- "Mako, 72; Actor Opened Door for Asian Americans". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-05-26.
- Pulvers, Roger (September 18, 2011), "Mako: the Japanese-American actor who fought racist stereotypes", The Japan Times
- Judy Stone (2007-03-18). "An unlikely heroine of World War II". SFGate. Retrieved 2014-02-04.
- Niiya, Brian. "Mako". Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 29, 2014.
- Kerr, Walter (January 18, 1976). "'Pacific Overtures' Is Neither East Nor West". The New York Times. (Subscription required (. ))
- "Three actors recall their roles in the original Broadway production". The Sondheim Review. 4 (4). Spring 1998. Archived from the original on February 2, 2017. Retrieved September 13, 2016.
- "Mako, 72, Actor Who Extended Asian-American Roles, Dies". The New York Times. July 25, 2006. Retrieved May 24, 2017. (Subscription required (. ))
- "TMNT Bits and Posters!". SuperHeroHype. July 20, 2006. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
- "Quint interviews the CGI TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES movie director, Kevin Munroe!!!". Ain't It Cool. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
- "On the Set of TMNT!". MovieWeb. January 24, 2007. Archived from the original on February 6, 2007. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
- "The Legend of Korra". IMDB. Amazon. Retrieved 23 July 2017.