Sonny Chiba, 82, died on Thursday of COVID-19 complications. The death of the martial arts actor was confirmed by the Japanese Times and Variety.
According to the Times, Chiba caught the illness at the end of July. On Aug. 8, he was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.
According to Variety, Chiba began studying Karate in 1957 and achieved his black belt in 1965. He later gained black belts in ninjutsu, shorinji kempo, judo, kendo, and goju-ryu karate.
Born Sadaho Maeda, Chiba took the name Shinichi Chiba when he began acting in 1959. New Line Cinema executive Robert Shaye named him Sonny when he distributed his martial arts films.
Chiba rose to prominence in the 1970s martial arts films Battles Without Humanity: Deadly Fight in Hiroshima, Champion of Death, and Karate Bear Fighter. Quentin Tarantino paid homage to Chiba’s Street Fighter franchise in True Romance with a speech delivered by Christian Slater.
Chiba was then cast as samurai sword smith Hattori Hanzo in Tarantino’s Kill Bill. Chiba has also appeared in films such as The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Aces: Iron Eagle III.
With over 200 film and television credits, Chiba acted from 1959 until the present. According to IMDB, Chiba has one more film, Bond of Justice: Kizuna in post-production, for release this year.
Chiba directed two movies, 1990’s Rimeinzu: Utsukushiki yuusha-tachi and 2007’s Oyaji.