Mako (actor)

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Mako
Makopicture.jpg
Native name 岩松誠
Born Makoto Iwamatsu
(1933-12-10)December 10, 1933
Kobe, Hyōgo, Empire of Japan
Died July 21, 2006(2006-07-21) (aged 72)
Somis, California, U.S.
Cause of death Esophageal cancer
Other names Mako Iwamatsu
Alma mater Pasadena Playhouse
Occupation Actor, voice actor, singer
Years active 1959–2006
Spouse(s) Shizuko Hoshi
Children 2

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.

Early life[edit]

Mako was born Makoto Iwamatsu[1] 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.[2][3] 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.[1] 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.[2]

Career[edit]

Film[edit]

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).[2] 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.

Theater[edit]

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.[4] 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.[5] 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!".[6] He also starred in the limited run of the play Shimada in 1992.

Television[edit]

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.

Video games[edit]

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.

Personal life[edit]

Mako was married to actress Shizuko Hoshi, with whom he had two daughters (Mimosa and Sala—both of whom are actresses) and three grandchildren.

Death[edit]

Mako died in Somis, California, on July 21, 2006, at age 72, from esophageal cancer.[7] One day before his death, Mako had been confirmed to star in the film TMNT as the voice of Splinter.[8] Kevin Munroe, director of the film, confirmed that Mako had completed his recording.[9][10] 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).[11]

After Mako's death, some of his roles, particularly Aku from Samurai Jack and Iroh in Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, were taken over by American voice actor Greg Baldwin.

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
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
Fools Psychiatrist
1971 Silence Kichijiro
1972 Yokohama Mama Rooster (voice) Short film
1974 The Island at the Top of the World Oomiak
1975 Prisoners Sgt. Nguyen
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
1983 Testament Mike
1984 Conan the Destroyer Akiro the Wizard
1986 Behind Enemy Lines Capt. Vinh
Armed Response Akira Tanaka
1988 Silent Assassins Oyama
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
1992 Sidekicks Mr. Lee
My Samurai Mr. Tszing
1993 RoboCop 3 Kanemitsu
Rising Sun Yoshida-san
1994 Red Sun Rising Buntoro Iga
A Dangerous Place Sensei
Highlander III: The Sorcerer Nakano
Cultivating Charlie Katsu
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
1999 Alegría Adult Momo
Kyohansha Police
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
2005 Cages Tan
Memoirs of a Geisha Sakamoto
2007 TMNT Master Splinter (voice) Posthumous release
Rise: Blood Hunter Poe Posthumous release

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
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
1979 Supertrain Kirby Episode: "Pirouette"
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
1987 Ohara Toshi Episode: "Toshi"
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!"
Sokoku Leo Television film
2005–2006 Avatar: The Last Airbender Uncle Iroh / Additional voices 30 episodes

Video games[edit]

Year Title Voice role
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
Wrath Unleashed Narrator

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Mako, 72; Actor Opened Door for Asian Americans". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-05-26. 
  2. ^ a b c Pulvers, Roger (September 18, 2011), "Mako: the Japanese-American actor who fought racist stereotypes", The Japan Times 
  3. ^ Judy Stone (2007-03-18). "An unlikely heroine of World War II". SFGate. Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  4. ^ Niiya, Brian. "Mako". Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 29, 2014. 
  5. ^ Kerr, Walter (January 18, 1976). "'Pacific Overtures' Is Neither East Nor West". The New York Times. (Subscription required (help)). 
  6. ^ "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. 
  7. ^ "Mako, 72, Actor Who Extended Asian-American Roles, Dies". The New York Times. July 25, 2006. Retrieved May 24, 2017. (Subscription required (help)). 
  8. ^ "TMNT Bits and Posters!". SuperHeroHype. July 20, 2006. Retrieved May 24, 2017. 
  9. ^ "Quint interviews the CGI TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES movie director, Kevin Munroe!!!". Ain't It Cool. Retrieved May 24, 2017. 
  10. ^ "On the Set of TMNT!". MovieWeb. January 24, 2007. Archived from the original on February 6, 2007. Retrieved August 11, 2018. 
  11. ^ "The Legend of Korra". IMDB. Amazon. Retrieved 23 July 2017. 

External links[edit]