Action Legend Sonny Chiba Has Died From COVID-19

Japanese acting and martial arts legend Sonny Chiba has passed away this morning from Covid-19 complications. He was a true great

By Doug Norrie | Updated

This article is more than 2 years old

sonny chiba

A Japanese action movie hero has passed away from complications with Covid-19. Legend Sonny Chiba passed away today at the age of 82-years-old. He was one of the true legends of Japanese action movies and had crossed over the United States features thanks to some of the bigger directors in the space recognizing his skills and talent. 

Details on the death of Sonny Chiba are sparse right now, though it is speculated he fell victim to one of the Covid-19 variants. We are sure to get more news on this over the coming days considering he was a true Japanese action star, working in over 120 movies and gained fame through his elite martial arts skills which he was able to translate to the big and small screen. Later in his career, he was mentioned and even took part in some movies in the United States as well. 

Shinichi β€œSonny” Chiba got his start in the early 1960s after apparently being discovered in a Japanese film studio talent search. That helped launch a career on the big and small screen for the actor and stunt performer who combined skills for an impressive array of talent that came through well in advance of any computer-enhanced imaging that helped to boost performance.

Sonny Chiba took that talent and worked it into the world of stunt choreography and coordinating and then went on to executive produce and even direct films. When it was all said and done, he had starred or taken part in over 120 different movies including titles like Kamikaze Man: Duel at High Noon, Yakuza Deka, Karate Kiba, Seven Color Mask, and Messenger of Allah among many, many others. 

It was in 1974 that Sonny Chiba had his name begin to ring out in the United States when The Street Fighter was dubbed for an American audience. It brought him into the limelight here with his showmanship and on-screen persona carrying for an American audience with Japanese films were starting to make inroads into American cinema. 

Sonny Chiba did end up taking part in a number of big-budget, United States films. Quentin Tarantino has professed to being a huge fan of the Japanese star and gave him a part in Kill Bill Volume 1 as retired samurai. Tarantino had also made numerous references to Chiba in previous movies. Chiba also played Boss Kamata in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, that quick excursion to Japan that the massive franchise took back in 2006. This was later in his career though and done as part of the recognition of his great career. 

At the time of his death, Sonny Chiba had retired from acting and performing, leaving the industry as a legend in his own country as well as one of the greats among fans of the style here in the United States. His stage name had been retired in Japan prior to his death. We are sure to hear more news about his passing as well as tributes to his life an career in the coming days.