The Last Samurai
Japanese actor Hiroyuki Sanada, also known as Duke Sanada / Harry Sanada / Henry Sanada / Hiroyuki Shimosawa, first came to fame as an action star in such Japanese movies as The Shogun’s Samurai (1978), Shogun’s Ninja (1980) and Samurai Reincarnation (1981) before eventually reaching a status as one of the most gifted actors in Japan, thanks largely to his popular role of Bouya Tetsu in Mahjong Vagrant Life (1984). Since then, he has established himself as a character actor who can play various roles, notably as Hayashi in Kaitô Ruby (1988), Keiichi Takahashi in Made in Japan (1993), Tonbo in Sharaku (1995) and Ryuji Takayama in Ringu (1998). His award-winning performance in the Academy Award-nominated The Twilight Samurai (2002) even won the actor major international attention, an exposure that paved the way for a successful switch to Hollywood films. Sanada is probably best known to American public for playing Ujio in the blockbuster hit The Last Samurai (2003), opposite Tom Cruise.
Recently appearing in Danny Boyle’s Sunshine (2007), Sanada is set to play supporting roles in James Ivory’s City of Your Final Destination (2007), opposite Anthony Hopkins, and the third installment Rush Hour 3 (2007), opposite Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.
Sanada has two sons with former wife Satomi Tezuka.
Childhood and Family:
Hiroyuki Sanada was born Hiroyuki Shimosawa, on October 12, 1960, in Tokyo, Japan. He made his film debut at age 5, and began training with Sonny Chiba’s Japan Action Club when he was 12, a year after the death of his father. He also received a degree from Nihon University College of Art, where he majored in film.
In 1990, Hiroyuki married Satomi Tezuka. Together they had two sons. The marriage, however, ended in divorced in July 1997. His former wife has the custody of his children. Duke is Hiroyuki’s nickname.
The Twilight Samurai
A senior member of Japan Action Club, organized and run by Sonny Chiba, Hiroyuki Sanada had his first taste in front of the film camera when he was 5, appearing alongside future mentor Chiba in Rokyoku komori-uta (1965). To full fill his goal of becoming an action star, young Sanada trained hard in martial arts. His work paid off in 1978 with his prominent role in the acclaimed film The Shogun’s Samurai (1978), where Chiba also had a memorable supporting performance. He gained further attention in the historic action film Shogun’s Ninja (1980), where he won praise for performing his own stunts, and with his notable performance in Samurai Reincarnation (1981), from which he netted a Japanese Academy for Newcomer of the Year. Chiba also appeared in both movies.
1984 marked a turning point for Sanada’s career. Already popular as an action star, he ventured into a serious performer with triumph in the based-on-book Mahjong Vagrant Life (Mahjong Horoki), directed Makoto Wada. Starring as Bouya Tetsu, a professional Mahjong Hustler, he was nominated for a Best Actor Japanese Academy and was subsequently launched to stardom. Four years later, his high-profile turn opposite Kyôko Koizumi in Wada’s film, Kaitô Ruby, gave additional verification that he was a versatile actor. Brightly playing Hayashi, he took home a Nikkan Sports Film for Best Supporting Actor, as well as a Yokohama Film Festival, a Kinema Junpo and a Hochi Film for Best Actor.
Throughout the 1990s, Sanada went on to build good reputation by delivering remarkable performances in many of his films. He picked up a Blue Ribbon for Best Actor in Made in Japan (Bokura wa minna ikiteiru) (1993), helmed by Yojiro Takita. His role of Keiichi Takahashi, combined with a supporting part in the comedy/drama Yamai wa kikara: Byôin e ikô 2 (1992) and a starring role as Detective Same in The City That Never Sleeps: Shinjuku Shark (Nemuranai machi - Shinjuku same) (1993), also won him a Festival Prize for Best Actor at the Yokohama Film Festival. Additionally, he took home a Kinema Junpo for Best Actor for his work in both the 1993 films. In the mid-1990s, Sanada again became the center of attention when he starred in the biographical movie Sharaku (1995). Along with his roles in East Meets West and Emergency Call (Kinkyu yobidashi - Emâjenshî koru) (both 1995), he collected four awards, including a Blue Ribbon, a Kinema Junpo and a Hochi Film, for Best Actor. He also had a memorable role supporting turn in the fantasy Ring (Ringu) (1998), directed by Hideo Nakata.
After First Love (Hatsukoi) (2000), All About Our House (Minna no ie) (2001) and Onmyoji: The Yin Yang Master (2001), Sanada achieved major international recognition with The Twilight Samurai (Tasogare Seibei) (2002), which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film and later was submitted to the Berlin Film Festival. Starring as Seibei Iguchi, he was handed numerous major Japanese movie awards, including a Japanese Academy for Best Actor. Sharing with his performance in Vengeance for Sale (Sukedachi-ya Sukeroku) (2001), he also netted a Kinema Junpo and a Mainichi Film Concours for Best Actor.
In 2003, Sanada ventured to Hollywood film with a high-profile project by director Edward Zwick, The Last Samurai. The box office hit war/drama starred Tom Cruise, Billy Connolly, Tony Goldwyn as well as the Oscar nominee, Japanese star Ken Watanabe. Two years later, he teamed up with American filmmaker James Ivory for the history film The White Countess, where he shared the screen with Natasha Richardson and Lynn Redgrave. The same year, he also resurfaced in two Japanese movies: Bôkoku no îgisu and The Promise. The first won him a 2006 Blue Ribbon for Best Actor.
Recently, Sanada appeared as Kaneda in the Danny Boyle-directed Sunshine (2007). He is also scheduled to support Anthony Hopkins, Omar Metwally, Laura Linney and Charlotte Gainsbourg in Ivory’s drama, City of Your Final Destination (2007) and act along side international superstar Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in the sequel Rush Hour 3 (2007).
Also a trained stage actor, Sanada starred in various theatrical works like “Romeo and Juliet,” “Big River” (with Ron Richardson), “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Hamlet” and “The Orchestra Pit.” In 1999, he made a name for himself as the first Japanese actor to join the British Royal Shakespeare Company, where he was cast as the Fool in “King Lear,” opposite Sir Nigel Hawthorne. For his effort, he was honored with Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) from the Queen.