Say it ain't so, Street Fighter! Long before the video game series, Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba was ripping out internal organs with his bare hands as mercenary Takuma Tsurugi in a legendary series of films (The Street Fighter,Return of the Street Fighter, The Street Fighter's Last Revenge). In his script for True Romance, Quentin Tarantino had Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette bond while watching Chiba's films in a theater; later Tarantino cast him as sword master Hanzo Hattori in Kill Bill, Vol. 1. Now, no more Chiba, at least in action roles: the actor has announced his retirement from acting under his Japanese stage name.

In the Variety article, Mark Schilling notes that Chiba's real name is Sadaho Maeda. As a young man, he adapted the stage name Shinichi Chiba; he picked up the nickname "Sonny" in the 1960's and that's how he was billed for international productions. He will keep acting as Sadaho Maeda in Japan and as Sonny Chiba internationally, but since the name "Shinichi Chiba" is so intimately associated with action roles -- and he no longer feels up to the physical demands -- he wants to pass the name on to a younger actor. Toward that end, he's starting up a Japanese branch of his Los Angeles-based acting school, Thousand Leaves Hollywood, with plans to expand it nationwide and even into Beijing and Shanghai, in partnership with Jackie Chan.

August Ragone researched and wrote a very fine, comprehensive biographical profile of Chiba, which was my starting point to learn more about "a real mean bastard!" Cinematical'sMatt Bradshaw listed The Street Fighter as one of his favorite grindhouse movies, and that's one of only a handful of Chiba's earlier films that I've seen -- the others are The Executioner andBullet Train -- but I'd love to see more.
categories Cinematical