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Toshiro Mifune (三 船 敏 郎, Mifune Toshiro?) (Qingdao, April 1, 1920 – December 24, 1997) was a prolific and devoted Japanese actor.
He is best known for his roles in the masterpieces of Hiroshi Inagaki (in the role of mythical samurai Miyamoto Musashi) and in several Akira Kurosawa films of the 1950s and 1960s as The Seven Samurai and Rashomon.
Toshirō Mifune was born to Japanese Methodist parents in Tsingtao (a transcript of Mandarin Chinese also spelled “Qingdao”) in the Chinese province of Shandong. Due to his birth in China, his parents also gave him a name in Mandarin Chinese (Sanchuan Minlang) in addition to his Japanese birth name (Toshirō Mifune). His father Tokuzo, a businessman who emigrated to China, familiarized him with photography. After finishing school he studied high school at the Institute of Port Arthur, and was admitted to the Imperial Japanese Navy fulfilling military service during World War II. While in the Navy, his knowledge of photography was appreciated and he was assigned to aerial reconnaissance. After the war, Mifune worked for Toho films as an assistant camera. A friend of his then sent a photograph of him to a casting of film actors, but without his knowing it. Mifune was selected and despite not having undertaken the candidacy he accepted to become an actor. He learned acting in an improvised internal school of dramatic art of Toho Films that arose as a result of a strike of actors.
In 1947 Mifune underwent a test for new actors, but he was not admitted. However, a director named Kajiro Yamamoto noticed him and recommended him to another director, Senkichi Taniguchi, who hired him for what would be Mifune’s first film, Shin Baka Jidai, which was filmed in that same year. In 1949 he meets Akira Kurosawa and establishes a solid friendship of mutual collaboration and provides Mifune with a launch ramp to success. Mifune was the favorite actor of the well-known director Akira Kurosawa. Indeed, throughout his long career, Mifune appeared in 16 Akira Kurosawa films, most of which became classics of Japanese cinema. Famous is the film The Seven Samurai (1954) which shows all the interpretative quality of Mifune and for which it became known worldwide. His prodigious performances, with a strong interpretative power, gave life to rigid, hard and raw characters such as itinerant samurai and ronin with a particular intensity that he often nuanced with delicate touches of humor.Another famous film where he acted was Rashomon , where he played an assailant involved in a murder.
In the early 1960s, Mifune and Kurosawa gradually move away and avoid each other for three decades. In 1963, Mifune founded his own production company, Mifune Geijutsu Gakuin (三 船 芸 术 学) Productions where he gave impetus to Japanese cinema.
He was the best known Japanese actor in the world, twice awarded the Volpi Cup as best actor at the Venice Film Festival, in 1961 by Yojimbo and in 1965 by Barbarroja. He appeared in several films and productions for American television.
In an unprecedented way for a Japanese artist, Mifune starred in a Mexican film entitled Ánimas Trujano in 1962, under the direction of the celebrated director Ismael Rodríguez. It is worth mentioning that this film was filmed entirely in Spanish, for which Mifune had to study for months tapes of Mexican actors, memorizing entirely his part of the script (although in the end it was dubbed by Narciso Busquets). incredible histrionic abilities, Mifune achieves a complete representation of the character in question: the ambitious, surly, drunk and irresponsible indigenous Oaxacan Animas Trujano. Another of his memorable appearances was in the miniseries Shogun: Lord of the Samurais of 1980, along with Richard Chamberlain and Yôko Shimada; his interpretation as Shogun Toranaga-San was very solid. His prolific filmography includes more than 160 titles, including films and different productions for television. Mifune retired for health reasons in 1992 confining himself to his home.
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