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Creator / Toshiro Mifune

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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

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 Jidaigeki 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 Rōnin 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. Of course, he later regretted turning down the roles, which could have allowed him to define the nature of the Jedi in that landmark film franchise and cultural touchstone.


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 Ishir⁠ō 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.
  • Badass Baritone: He was known for this, although his natural voice wasn't particularly deep and he did have an impressive vocal range.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Even as a child!
  • Death by Despair: Supposedly how poor Toshiro met his end.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: In his younger years, his part was usually that of a Large Ham. In later movies, his characters are generally The Stoic, or at least a Cold Ham. Exceptions in later years included Gonzo in Red Lion.
  • Enforced Method Acting: Was on the giving and receiving end of this. In Throne of Blood, the arrows that were supposed to miss him were shot by real archers; Mifune's reaction was a genuinely frightened one. While filming 1941, he was disgusted at the lack of discipline among the actors playing the submarine crew, so, having served in the Japanese military in World War II, he got into character and stayed in character until the others realised he was being serious and began acting more authentic.
  • Fake Nationality: He played a Mexican in Animas Trujano.
  • Japanese Christian: A professed Methodist throughout his life.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He had an explosive temper, which was part of the rebellious streak he gained from his World War II Training from Hell, but he was a very kind, courteous, generous man who would always help around the set of a movie.
  • Large Ham: Half his roles are this. The other half are a Cold Ham. Toshiro was arguably a large ham in real life; in his audition he basically tore up the room when he had to express anger.
  • 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.
  • Playing Against Type: He usually plays tough guys, but he played a Shrinking Violet in Conduct Report on Professor Ishinaka.
  • Playing with Character Type: Played a wide range of samurai or warrior characters, but they were normally rebels, misfits or nonconformists.
  • Rated M for Manly: Played straight with half of his roles and deconstructed in the other half. Many of his best known roles show how self-destructive society's ideas of masculinity can be.
  • 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.
  • Tom Hanks Syndrome: Downplayed. His early roles were a mixture of comedic and dramatic, sometimes at the same time. Later in his career his roles were almost exclusively dramatic.
  • 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 he was vitriolic best buds with Kurosawa as well.
  • What Could Have Been: He was George Lucas' first choice to play Obi-Wan Kenobi, but rejected the offer because he wasn't confident with his English skills and thought such a film was beneath him (amusingly Alec Guinness felt the same way). He's said to have regretted this later in life, particularly since he could've made the now-iconic Jedi even more samurai-influenced than they already are.
  • Workaholic: He worked insanely hard during his lifetime.


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