- Oct 21, 1959
- Koide (now Uonuma), Niigata prefecture
Bio: In 1982, he made his first TV appearance in Michinaru Hanran (Unknown Rebellion), and his first appearance on TV as a samurai in Mibu no koiuta. He made his feature-film debut in 1984 with MacArthur's Children.
Watanabe is mostly known in Japan for playing samurai, as in the 1987 Dokuganryu Masamune (One eyed dragon, Masamune) the 50-episode NHK drama… More Bio: In 1982, he made his first TV appearance in Michinaru Hanran (Unknown Rebellion), and his first appearance on TV as a samurai in Mibu no koiuta. He made his feature-film debut in 1984 with MacArthur's Children.
Watanabe is mostly known in Japan for playing samurai, as in the 1987 Dokuganryu Masamune (One eyed dragon, Masamune) the 50-episode NHK drama for which he is now best known. He played the lead character, Matsudaira Kur?, in the television jidaigeki Gokenin Zankur?, which ran for several seasons. The American-produced The Last Samurai is his fourth such depiction, although he has also played gangsters, businessmen and a general in other works. He has gone on to earn acclaim in such historical dramas as Oda Nobunaga, Chushingura, and the movie Bakumatsu Junjo Den.
In 1989, while filming Haruki Kadokawa's Ten to Chi to (Heaven and Earth) in Calgary, Watanabe was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia. He returned to acting while simultaneously undergoing chemotherapy treatments, but in 1994 suffered a relapse.
As his health improved his career picked back up. He co-starred with Koji Yakusho in the 1998 Kizuna, for which he won a Japanese Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Watanabe had ignored his finances, leaving them entirely to his wife. In 2001 he announced at a press conference that his 170million home had been repossessed and that he was heavily in debt.
In 2002, he quit the En (Enegki-Shudan En) theater group where he had his start and joined the K-Dash agency. The film Sennen no Koi (Thousand-year Love, based on The Tale of Genji) won Watanabe another Japanese Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
For his performance as Katsumoto in The Last Samurai, he was nominated for the 2003 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
In 2004, he was featured in People Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" edition.
Watanabe played the part of the Ra's al Ghul in the 2005 film Batman Begins and The Chairman in the film version of the best selling Arthur Golden novel, Memoirs of a Geisha.
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