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"All you need is one look at Toshiro Mifune to know that he's fucking serious. He's coarse, he's gruff, he's confident, he doesn't take any fucking shit from anyone and he's got the sort of commanding presence that forces you to respect the fact that he could kick your ass fifteen ways from Thursday afternooon and not even break a sweat."
Badass of the Week's entry on Toshiro Mifune
"I am proud of nothing I have done other than with him."
—Mifune on his work with his then-estranged friend Akira Kurosawa

Toshiro Mifune was a prolific Japanese actor best known for his numerous collaborations with Akira Kurosawa (e.g Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, Yojimbo, Sanjuro and every other movie Kurosawa made between 1948 and 1965 with the exception of Ikiru) as well as many other leading roles. Mifune was to Jidai Geki what Clint Eastwood is to The Western -- if there was a Badass Samurai character to be played in the 1950s or early 1960s, chances are he was on the short list for it. In particular, his gruff, calculating Ronin character from Yojimbo was to be the model for Eastwood's "Man with No Name" and numerous other antiheroes.

Mifune and Kurosawa had a falling out in the late 1960s after the filming of Red Beard, and after that Mifune began popping up occasionally in Western film productions such as Grand Prix and Hell in the Pacific. This eventually culminated in Mifune appearing in the American miniseries Shogun (as the resident Magnificent Bastard, Toranaga), resulting in acclaim stateside but criticism in Japan due to the lack of historical accuracy. If George Lucas would have had his way instead of being told by higher ups to hire a well-known (to Western audiences) actor for the role, Mifune would have played Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars.[1]

In between 1993 and 1997, Kurosawa and Mifune had a few meetings with one another at funerals and award ceremonies, most notably at the 1993 funeral of their mutual friend, Godzilla director Ishiro Honda. It seemed that their relationship had begun to repair itself. Rumor had it that they would collaborate once more, but Mifune died in 1997 and Kurosawa a year after him. It's said that Mifune actually succumbed to Death by Despair: his health had been really bad after a stress-triggered heart attack, but his ex-wife Sachiko Yoshimine was helping him overcome it, and when she suddenly died of cancer his physical and mental state state took a nosedive and he simply lost the will to live.

According to legend, Mifune's career was an accident. Toshiro Mifune needed work, and a friend told him that the studio was hiring maintenance men. When he got there, he stepped into the wrong line and wound up at auditions.

And it should be noted Mifune was a devout Methodist. Real Men Love Jesus, indeed.


  1. The Soul Series' Mitsurugi, an Expy of Mifune, was Kenobi. Or at least, his Japanese voice was.
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