definition of Wikipedia
Shintaro Katsu from the cover of his single "Yesterday"
November 29, 1931|
Fukagawa, Tokyo, Japan
|Died||June 21, 1997
Kashiwa, Chiba, Japan
|Occupation||Actor, singer, producer,
writer and director
He was born Toshio Okumura (奥村 利夫 Okumura Toshio) on November 29 1931. He was the son of kabuki performer Katsutoji Kineya (Kineya Katsutōji) who was renowned for his nagauta and shamisen skills, and younger brother of actor Tomisaburo Wakayama (Wakayama Tomisaburō).
Shintaro Katsu began his career in entertainment as a shamisen player. He switched to acting because he noticed it was better paid. In the 1960s he starred simultaneously in three long-running series of films, the Akumyo series, the Heitai Yakuza series, and the Zatoichi series.
His best known role was as blind Yakuza anma (masseur) Zatoichi in the series of films by the same name, which were very popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Katsu played Zatoichi in 25 movies between 1962 and 1973, starred and directed a 26th in 1989 and played the role in four seasons of a spin-off television series, the role comprising almost 30 years of his career.
Katsu became a force to be reckoned with within the Japanese entertainment industry during his long and varied career, not the least of which was the company Katsu Productions, which was formed after the closing of Daiei Studios. By all appearances Katsu Productions' focus was on producing film and television that challenged the established values of its industry, presenting many films that pushed the limits of their time. Though not always initially artistically appreciated, many of these films have gone on to be considered classics (The Goyokiba and Kozure Okami series, etc.). Introducing more intense themes of sex and violence, the influence of many of these films can still be found in contemporary Japanese cinema.
He is also known for his troubled personal life. A heavy drinker, Katsu had several skirmishes with the law regarding drug use as well, including marijuana, opium, and cocaine with arrests in 1978, 1990, and 1992. These incidents resulted in his being removed from consideration for several parts both in Japan and abroad, amongst them an ad campaign for Kirin Beer in Japan (the campaign was pulled as it had already been in progress) and the lead role in Ridley Scott's 1989 film Black Rain (he was replaced by Ken Takakura).
He had also developed a reputation for being something of a troublemaker on set. When director Akira Kurosawa cast him for the lead role in Kagemusha (1980), Katsu left before the first day of shooting was over. Though accounts differ as to the incident, the most consistent one details Katsu's clash with Kurosawa regarding bringing his own film crew to the set (to film Kurosawa in action for later exhibition to his own acting students). Kurosawa is reputed to have taken great offense at this, resulting in Katsu's termination (he was replaced by Tatsuya Nakadai). In her recent book, Waiting On The Weather, about her experiences with director Kurosawa, script supervisor Teruyo Nogami chalks the differences between Katsu and Kurosawa up to a personality clash that had unfortunate artistic results.
Katsu encountered further controversy and personal disgrace when stunt actor Yukio Kato was killed on the set of Zatoichi 26 by his son, who was co-starring, due to a prop-related mishap. (An actual sword was mistaken for a prop; Kato was fatally wounded). Katsu Productions was eventually bankrupted by a combination of gambling debts, and general mismanagement.
In her book, Geisha, A Life, famed Kyoto geisha Mineko Iwasaki claims a long time affair with Katsu, whom she calls by his given name, Toshio. The affair ended in 1976, and eventually the two became good friends until his death.
Katsu produced the manga-based Lone Wolf and Cub (Kozure Okami) series of violent jidaigeki films starring his brother Tomisaburo Wakayama which were later compiled into the movie Shogun Assassin, as well as co-writing, producing, and acting alongside his brother in the TV series "Oshi Samurai" ("The Mute Samurai").
His other television work includes the police drama "Keishi-K" ("Superintendent K") which he starred in (as Katsutoshi Gatsu), co-wrote, directed, and produced. His daughter, Masami Okumura, co-starred. Other well-known film work includes the Goyokiba ("Fangs Of The Detective", known in the US as Hanzo the Razor, as Detective Itami Hanzo) trilogy of exploitation movies. He was also an accomplished shamisen player, as well as a vocalist, recording several albums in both pop and Enka. Nonetheless, his name remains synonymous with Zatoichi, the blind swordsman.
He died of pharyngeal cancer on June 21, 1997.
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