Hollywood celebrated the life of legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune on Monday, honoring him with a star on its iconic Walk of Fame two decades after his death. Mifune rose to stardom through Akira Kurosawa’s classics, including “Rashomon” (1950) and “Seven Samurai” (1954), with masculine portrayals of powerful warlords that earned him a reputation as the world’s best samurai actor. He died in Tokyo at that age of 77 in 1997. He had been mostly confined to his home since suffering a heart attack five years earlier. His death shocked Japan’s cinema industry, which took pride in him as its most presentable actor in international cinema, fondly calling him “Mifune of the world.”
Kurosawa cast Mifune in leading roles in all but one of 17 films he made between 1948 and 1965. “Rashomon,” in which Mifune played a cynical bandit, won the Grand Prix award at the 1951 Venice Film Festival. Mifune played a peasant-turned samurai leading farmers’ resistance against bandits in “Seven Samurai,” which inspired two Western remakes, both titled “The Magnificent Seven” (1960 and 2016).
Born in Qingdao, China, on April 1, 1920, to a photographic studio owner, Mifune joined film company Toho Co. in 1946 after serving six years in an Imperial Japanese Army aerial photography unit during World War II. He appeared in around 170 feature films, including such foreign productions as Terence Young’s “Red Sun” (1972) and Steven Spielberg’s “1941” (1979). He also starred in the 1980 popular US television mini-series “Shogun,” based on James Clavell’s bestselling book. Mifune’s last role on the silver screen was in “Fukai Kawa (Deep River)” in 1995, in which he portrayed a man tortured to the last moment of his life by his experience eating one of his comrades during war.
He left assets of 630 million yen (then $5.4 million), according to local tax officials. “My grandfather passed away when I was nine so the memories I have of him are mainly as a grandfather figure, but I remember him as a gentleman at home,” said his grandson, the actor Rikiya Mifune. “He would talk in a gruff and manly manner and always have perfect posture, like a true samurai, even at home.” His life is the subject of documentary “Mifune: The Last Samurai,” screened at the American Film Institute’s AFI Fest this year. It is set to be released in US theaters on December 2.-AFP