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'Kill Bill,' 'Street Fighter' actor Sonny Chiba dies of COVID-19 complications

Sonny Chiba died Thursday of complications from COVID-19, including pneumonia. File Photo by Ezio Petersen/UPI
Sonny Chiba died Thursday of complications from COVID-19, including pneumonia. File Photo by Ezio Petersen/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Sonny Chiba died Thursday of COVID-19 complications at age 82. The Japanese Times reported and Variety confirmed the martial arts actor's death.

The Times reports that Chiba contracted the virus at the end of July. He was hospitalized with pneumonia on Aug. 8.

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According to Variety, Chiba studied Karate beginning in 1957 and earned his black belt in 1965. He later earned black belts in additional martial arts ninjutsu, shorinji kempo, judo, kendo and goju-ryu karate.

Born Sadaho Maeda, Chiba took the name Shinichi Chiba when he began acting in 1959. New Line Cinema executive Robert Shaye named him Sonny when he distributed his martial arts films.

Chiba's Japanese 1970s martial arts movies Battles Without Humanity: Deadly Fight in Hiroshima, Champion of Death and Karate Bear Fighter made him an action star. Quentin Tarantino paid tribute to Chiba's Street Fighter franchise with a monologue in True Romance that Christian Slater delivers.

Tarantino later cast Chiba as samurai sword maker Hattori Hanzo in Kill Bill. Chiba starred in other American movies such as The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Aces: Iron Eagle III.

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With over 200 film and television credits, Chiba acted from 1959 until the present. According to IMDB, Chiba has one more film, Bond of Justice: Kizuna in post-production, for release this year.

Chiba directed two movies, 1990's Rimeinzu: Utsukushiki yuusha-tachi and 2007's Oyaji.

Notable deaths of 2021

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Norm Macdonald, known for "Saturday Night Live," "Billy Madison," and "Norm," died after a private battle with cancer on September 14 at the age of 61. Photo courtesy of Netflix

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