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'Kill Bill' actor Sonny Chiba dies from coronavirus complications

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Shin’ichi “Sonny” Chiba, the Japanese actor known for his role as Hanzo in Quentin Tarantino‘s Kill Bill films, has died aged 82.

Chiba died on August 19 from pneumonia which was caused by contracting COVID-19, Variety has confirmed via his agent. The actor had been admitted to hospital initially on August 8.

Alongside his performances opposite Uma Thurman as the master Japanese sword smith Hanzo in Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2, Chiba was also known as Kamata, a Yakuza boss and uncle of the main antagonist Takashi (Brian Tee) in The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift.

‘Kill Bill’ actor Sonny Chiba (Credit: Alamy)

Earlier in his career, which spanned over 60 years, the actor and martial arts performer gained international appeal for his ongoing role in the Street Fighter franchise. He also appeared in Battle Royale II, the sequel to the hugely popular manga series adaptation.

In his martial arts career, Chiba earned six black belts in ninjitsu, kendo, and judo. During a press tour for John Wick 2 in Japan, Chiba surprised Keanu Reeves, a vocal fan of his martial arts work, in a talk show interview. “Maestro,” said Reeves upon shaking his hand.

Fans of Chiba have taken to social media to voice their admiration of the actor in light of the news.

“RIP, Sonny Chiba. The sun goes down,” tweeted famed video game creator Hideo Kojima.

“A martial arts legend with six black belts who started out in tokusatsu TV, Chiba made over 120 movies for Toei and was Japan’s most popular action star for decades. Watch one of his films today,” wrote filmmaker Ted Geoghegan on Twitter.

Mortal Kombat actor Lewis Tan tweeted: “A true action legend. Your films are eternal and your energy an inspiration.”

Chiba’s final on-screen credit will be in Japanese mafia film Bond: Kizuna, which is set for release in the US in October 2021.

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