Ken Takakura was born February 16, 1931 as Oda Toshimasa in Kitakyushu, Japan. Known as "The Japanese Clint Eastwood" and often compared to career of John Wayne, Takakura has been in more than 50 samurai serials and hundreds of Japanese gangster flicks (or crime action films if you will). His sturdy portrayals helped define the archetype for Japanese manhood in the 60s and 70s. A graduate of Meiji University, Takakura studied commerce, but turned to acting soon after graduation, making his screen debut in 1955 in Denko Karate-uchi. Three times since then he has won the Japanse Academy Award for "Best Actor".
Besides hundreds of roles in movies and serials you'll also see him in a few American releases like Robert Aldrich's Too Late the Hero (1970), with the likes of Michael Caine, and Koreyoshi Kurahara's Antarctica (1983). Americans though, will be familiar with Takakura from the smattering of English language roles such as Ken Tanaka in The Yakuza (1975), Assistant Inspector Mashahiro Matsumoto for the Osaka Prefecural Police in Ridley Scott's Black Rain (1989), and as The Dragons' Manager, Uchiyama in Mr. Baseball (1992) with Tom Selleck.
Most recently, in 1999 Takakura won "Best male actor" at the 23rd annual Montreal World Film Festival for his role as the old stationmaster, Otomatsu Sato, in the Japanese film Poppoya (aka Railroad Man).
Ken Takakura died of lymphoma on November 10, 2014, he was 83 years old.