Ken Watanabe Biography |
  • Ken Watanabe Biography

    Born: October 21, 1959 in , Uonuma, Japan

    KEN WATANABE made his American film debut in Edward Zwick’s “The Last Samurai,” opposite Tom Cruise, for which Watanabe received Oscar®, Screen Actors Guild Award®, Critics’ Choice Award and Golden Globe Award nominations.  Since then, the actor has collaborated with some of most significant filmmakers of our time.  In 2006, Watanabe portrayed the courageous Japanese General Tadamichi Kuribayashi in Clint Eastwood’s award-winning World War II drama “Letters from Iwo Jima.”  Watanabe first worked with director Christopher Nolan on the 2005 blockbuster “Batman Begins,” and subsequently on “Inception.”  For Rob Marshall, Watanabe starred in “Memoirs of a Geisha,” the lush screen adaptation of Arthur Golden’s best-selling novel.

    Later this year, Watanabe begins work on “Sea of Trees” for director Gus Van Sant.  “Sea of Trees” is the story of a suicidal American (Matthew McConaughey) who befriends a Japanese man (Watanabe) lost in a forest near Mt. Fuji.  At the end of the year, Watanabe stars with Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver in Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s acclaimed novel “Silence.”  Set in the 17th century, “Silence” follows two Jesuit priests who face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and to spread the gospel of Christianity.
    Last year, Watanabe starred in, and received a Japanese Academy Award nomination for, “Yurusarezaru mono,” Sang-il Lee’s Japanese language remake of Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven.”

    In 2006, Watanabe starred in and executive produced the Japanese film “Memories of Tomorrow,” for which he won a number of Best Actor awards, including the Japanese Academy Award and the Hochi Film Award.  In 2009, he starred in“Shizumano Taiyô (The Unbroken),” for which he won his second Japanese Academy Award, as well as the Hochi Film Award for Best Actor.  His Japanese film credits also include the international hit comedy “Tampopo,” directed by Juzo Itami, as well as “Ikebukuro West Gate Park,” “Space Travelers,” “Oboreru Sakana (Drowning Fish)” and “Shin Jinginaki Tatakai/Bosatsu (Fight Without Loyalty/Murder),” an updated version of the popular Yakuza movie series.

    Watanabe began his acting career with the Tokyo-based theater company En.  His lead performance in the company’s production of “Shimoya Mannen-cho Monogatari,” directed by Yukio Ninawara, caught the attention of both critics and Japanese audiences. In 1982, Watanabe made his television debut with “Michinaru Hanran.”  His formidable screen presence in the subsequent Samurai drama series “Dokuganryu Masamume” led to additional roles in the historical series “Oda Nobunaga” and “Chushingura,” and the film “Bakumatsu Junjou Den.”

    Last year, Watanabe returned to the Tokyo and Osaka stages in the comedy "Dialogue with Horowitz" by Koki Mitani.  The critically acclaimed productions were sold out and later broadcast on television.

© 2019