Creator / Toshiro Mifune

"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

Toshiro Mifune (三船 敏郎, April 1, 1920 December 24, 1997) 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,note  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 note , Mifune would have played Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars.note  He was also offered the role of Darth Vader, but turned it down as his face would have been covered by a mask.

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 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. Mifune was known to be a real darling to the crew, frequently sharing food with them and helping them out with errands during production, partly because he was aware how unplanned and accidental his own career was as an actor.


Tropes associated with Toshiro:

  • The Ace: An all-round superb athlete and horseman. He later became a Broken Ace.
  • The Alcoholic: Part of what caused his health to deteriorate.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Even as a child!
  • Death by Despair: Supposedly how poor Toshiro met his end.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: He was boisterous and temperamental. He notoriously threatened Akira Kurosawa with a gun during the making of Seven Samurai under the stress of working for him.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Despite having been wild, brusque, unpredictable and sometimes thoughtless and insensitive, at the same time he could be generous, helpful and personable.
  • Large Ham: Half his roles are either this. The other half are a Cold Ham.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Liked to show off his strapping, muscular body in a good number of his movie roles. For instance, he strips down to a thong to catch a fish in Seven Samurai
  • Parental Neglect: Paid no attention to his illegitimate daughter Mika while she was growing up.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Subverted. He was a chain smoker for a long time and looked cool doing it, but it seriously deteriorated his health along with heavy drinking.
  • Teeth Flying: Recalled in a 1980s interview that when he was a recruit in World War II, he was beaten around the face so much that he's had teeth knocked out.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: With Kamatari Fujiwara. One time while drinking with Fujiwara, he became so rude that Fujiwara had to knock him to the ground. Mifune just laughed it off. Arguably with Kurosawa as well.
  • Workaholic: He worked insanely hard during his lifetime.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Had an affair with another woman during his marriage and had a daughter, Mika, by his mistress. Arguably a Sympathetic Adulterer, given that he still loved his wife.