Movies

3 Ken Watanabe Roles That Made Him Famous Before 'Tokyo Vice'

Image credit: Legion-Media

Ken Watanabe was a Hollywood main-stay long before 'Tokyo Vice', but it was this series that helped the Japanese actor get more creative freedom in developing his character.

Starting acting in 1980's, Watanabe quickly become a major movie star on his home turf, but managed to achieve worldwide success only twenty years later. His long and fruitful career is bursting with interesting performances, so it was difficult to single out just three of them.

So, without further ado, here are 3 roles that made Watanabe famous:

The Last Samurai (dir. Edward Zwick)

Tom Cruise-led period epic saw Watanabe starring as an eponymous samurai, who started the revolt against Japan's corrupt government of the time. Superb camerawork, a tight script and inspiring action sequences only added to Watanabe's brilliant acting, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, eventually losing to Tim Robbins ('Mystic River').

Letters from Iwo Jima (dir. Clint Eastwood)

Clint Eastwood's war drama centers on the Battle of Iwo Jima, but with a catch – the story is told from the perspective of Japanese soldiers. Watanabe starred as General Kuribayashi, who led Japanese troops into battle. A quiet and honorable performance earned actor stellar reviews from critics.

Inception (dir. Christopher Nolan)

Nolan's biggest original film featured a truly incredible cast, with Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy leading the pack. But it was Watanabe's performance as Saito, nicknamed The Tourist, which turned many fans' heads. Despite getting less screen time than his Western counterparts, Watanabe chewed the scenery in every scene he appeared in.

'Tokyo Vice' is currently streaming on HBO Max.

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