A little while ago I wrote about my favorite J-drama actors and actresses. While they’re great and all, they don’t really get a lot of screen time overseas and while some of them star in movies, they still don’t have much international acclaim yet. There are, however, a handful of Japanese movie stars who have really made it or have started to make it, and they are paving the way for other Japanese stars to follow in their footsteps.
Ken Watanabe became interested in acting at the age of 24 when a director of England’s National Theatre Company told him that acting was his special gift. The Last Samurai was the movie that introduced him to Western audiences. Ken here has been in tons of movies and I imagine that most Americans would recognize his name, or at least his face. Out of the three actors here, I’d say Ken Watanabe would be regarded as the most well known and famous.
Check him out on IMDB.
Ken Watanabe’s Best Japanese Movie
Ken Watanabe has been in a lot of movies, but I think Tampopo has to take the cake for his best Japanese one. This movie is so great that Koichi even did a full write up of it in his post Tampopo: The Movie That Teaches Us About Living Life Via Ramen & Food. And that’s really what it does. Koichi thinks it’s one of the greatest movies ever made. I’m not arguing with him.
Ken Watanabe’s Best American Movie
Letters From Iwo Jima is a phenomenal movie. It’s directed by Clint Eastwood and even has Kazunari Ninomiya from the pop group Arashi in it. Ken Watanabe has also been in Inception and The Last Samurai, both excellent movies in their own right. However, I have to give this one to Letters From Iwo Jima. This movie is fantastic and you owe it to yourself to check it out.
Hiroyuki Sanada first became famous as an action star for his role in The Shogun’s Samurai in 1978. He started his career doing mostly action pieces but now is known as one of the most talented actors in Japan. He’s been in lots of movies but as far as American movies go, he’s yet to really star in one. So far he’s mostly been in supporting roles, but I hope to see this change over time. He’s a great actor and definitely deserves a bit more of the spotlight in my opinion.
Check him out on IMDB.
Hiroyuki Sanada’s Best Japanese Movie
Admittedly, I’ve yet to see The Twilight Samurai. However, it is on my list. I really need to get around to it. Everything I’ve seen and heard concerning the film sounds promising. The film has plenty of drama and action, and if you want to read more about how great it is, check it out over on RottenTomatoes.com.
Hiroyuki Sanada’s Best English Language Movie
Okay, so you don’t actually see Hiroyuki Sanada in this trailer, but I promise you, he is in the movie. Also, I say “English language” for this one since this movie is British, but if you didn’t know you’d probably just figure it was a Hollywood movie, so it’s no big deal.
Anyway, Sunshine is great. Seeing this movie on a huge screen with a nice sound system is truly an experience. Even just writing this and looking up the trailer for the movie makes me want to go and watch it again. Hiroyuki Sanada has also been in The Last Samurai, Speed Racer, and Rush Hour 3, but I think Sunshine is definitely the best out of the bunch. The Last Samurai is a close second though.
Tadanobu Asano is awesome. Described by some as a cross between Johnny Depp and Toshiro Mifune, people say he’s the hippest, if not the single most important, Japanese film actor working today. I will not argue with these people.
Tadanobu Asano is one of those actors that I just love to watch. I feel like many people feel that way about Johnny Depp, so I can really understand the parallels there. I’ve seen him in tons of movies and he never disappoints. He’s slowly working his way into American movies and I can’t wait for him to get bigger and better roles.
Check him out on IMDB.
Tadanobu Asano’s Best Japanese Movie
Not only is Survive Style 5+ the best Japanese movie that Tadanobu Asano has been in, it’s just the best Japanese movie in all of the ever. I wrote about the movie before in my Top 10 Strange Japanese Films You Need to Watch post, and the movie also starts Abe Hiroshi, one of my all time favorite J-drama actors. No need for plot summary here, I think the trailer pretty much speaks for itself. You have to watch this movie.
Tadanobu Asano’s Best American Movie
Tadanobu Asano is barely in this trailer twice and he doesn’t play a huge part in the movie, but still, he’s in Thor. Tadanobu Asano has yet to have a really big role in an English speaking film, but he’s getting there. He was in Battleship (which was just awful, I’ve heard) and he will return in Thor 2. Hopefully he’ll get more screen time in the second one. I was so excited when I saw him on screen when watching Thor. I had no idea he was in it beforehand so I was really excited to find out that he was. I was happy for him. Tadanobu Asano is awesome.
So tell me, who is your favorite Japanese movie star? Have they broken out into the international movie scene yet? What do you think of the three listed above? Share your thoughts in the comments!