Sonny Chiba, the Japanese actor and martial arts legend who appeared in American films like Kill Bill Volume 1 and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, died on Thursday from COVID complications. He was 82 years old.
Chiba “studied under karate master Masutatsu ‘Mas’ Oyama and earned a first-degree black belt in 1965,” according to Variety. “In 1984, he received a fourth-degree black belt. He also held black belts in ninjutsu, shorinji kempo, judo, kendo, and goju-ryu karate.” He began his acting career in the early 1960s, while his breakthrough international hit came in 1974 with The Street Fighter. The hyper-violent film, and its sequels Return of the Street Fighter and The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge, caught the attention of a young Quentin Tarantino, who references Chiba in True Romance; he also played swordsman Hattori Hanzo in the first Kill Bill movie. Chiba had another fan in Hollywood in Keanu Reeves, who met his hero while doing promotion for John Wick: Chapter 2.
I believe this tweet put it best: “The whole clip is so f*cking adorable.”
This clip of Keanu meeting his hero Sonny Chiba says it all. RIP to a true legend. You will be missed, Sonny. pic.twitter.com/4ZswAcnAEA
— Sam Vaxxed Haren (@SamShotFirst) August 19, 2021
“This clip of Keanu meeting his hero Sonny Chiba says it all. RIP to a true legend. You will be missed, Sonny,” Talk Film Society associate editor Sam Van Haren tweeted. The footage is from 2017, but it resurfaced following Chiba’s death for being so pure and lovely. “Oh my goodness I’ve never seen this before. Amazing to see how starstruck Keanu was. Sonny Chiba’s legacy runs through much of today’s action movies,” one quote-tweet reads, while another notes, “Keanu is arguably the greatest living action star and he’s marking out on Chiba like he just met Santa Claus which is how you know that dude was one of the best ever.” The tributes continued to roll in:
Keanu totally fanboying upon meeting his idol Sonny Chiba is about as good a Sonny Chiba obituary you’ll ever need. https://t.co/G0B68Rolnh
— Foywonder (@Foywonder) August 19, 2021
This says it all. RIP to the legend. https://t.co/EHgUGFixgH
— PostPostModernShad (@shadow_hand) August 19, 2021
Here’s some of Chiba’s finest work: