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Sonny Chiba, Japanese stage name, Shin'ichi Chiba (千葉 真一 Chiba Shin'ichi, born on January 23, 1939 in Hokkaidō, Japan) is a Japanese action star.

Sonny Chiba was one of the first actors to achieve stardom through his skills in martial arts, initially in Japan and later before an international audience.

Born Sadaho Maeda (前田 禎穂 Maeda Sadaho) in Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan, he was the second of 5 children in the family of a military test pilot.

As a boy, he manifested an interest in both theater and gymnastics, and he was serious enough about the latter to earn a place on the Japanese Olympic team in his late teens until he was sidelined by a back injury. While he was a university student, he began studying martial arts with the renowned World Karate Grand Master Masutatsu "Mas" Oyama (who he later played in a trilogy of films), leading to his becoming a first degree black belt.

Sometime around 1960 (the dates are uncertain, because it is possible that he had television appearances to his credit as early as 1959) he was discovered in a talent search (called "New Face") by the Toei film studio, and he began his screen career soon after, under the name Shinichi Chiba. Over the next decade, he was cast primarily in crime thrillers. He also adopted the English name Sonny Chiba, initially because of his association with a Toyota advertising campaign for a car called the Sunny-S.

By 1970, he had started his own training school for actors aspiring to work in martial arts films, and, in 1973, in the wake of the international craze for such films started by Bruce Lee, he returned to the screen himself as an actor. Chiba's breakthrough international hit was The Street Fighter (1974), which established him as the reigning Japanese martial arts actor in international cinema for the next two decades.

His subsequent hits included such pictures as Bullet Train (1975), Karate Warriors (1976), Doberman Cop (1977), and The Assassin (1977). He also occasionally returned to the science fiction genre, in movies such as Message From Space (1978). Chiba was even busier in the 1980s, doing dozens of movies as well as making forays into television, and with roles in such high profile adventures as the popular Hong Kong Manga-based Movie: The Storm Riders (1998), starring alongside with Ekin Cheng, the then Prince Of Pop-Culture of Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong Heavenly Pop Prince: Aaron Kwok, his fame in Japan remained unabated into the 1990s.

In his 50s, the actor resumed working under the name Shinichi Chiba when he served as a choreographer of martial arts sequences. At the dawn of the 21st century, Chiba was as busy as ever in feature films and also starring in his own series in Japan.

Roles in Takashi Miike's Deadly Outlaw: Rekka and directors Kenta and Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale II effectively bridged the gap between modern day and yesteryear cinematic cult legends, Chiba's enduring onscreen career received a fitting tribute when he appeared in a key role in director Quentin Tarantino's bloody revenge epic Kill Bill in 2003.

Sonny Chiba has starred in more than 125 films for Toei Studios and has won numerous awards in Japan for his acting.

He currently lives in Yokohama, Japan is divorced from his first wife, Yoko Nogiwa and is remarried with a new son, born in 1996. He is also the father of Julie Manase and Reiko Chiba, both actresses. His younger brother, Jiro Chiba, was also an actor, and now lives with his family in rural Japan.

- From Wikipedia.org

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