Toshirō Mifune (三船 敏郎 Mifune Toshirō [miɸɯne toɕiɽoː]; April 1, 1920 – December 24, 1997) was a Japanese actor who appeared in almost 170 feature films. He is best known for his 16-film collaboration with filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, from 1948 to 1965, in works such as Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, and Yojimbo. He is also popular for portraying Musashi Miyamoto in Hiroshi Inagaki's Samurai Trilogy.
Ranked #90 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list. [October 1997]
Was considered early on by George Lucas for the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
Even though Mifune worked hard to learn his English-speaking roles phonetically, his voice was always dubbed in the American films in which he appeared. This was one of the things that disappointed him up until the day he died.
Mexican director/producer Ismael Rodríguez cast him as the drunken Mexican-Indian title role of his film Ánimas Trujano (El hombre importante) (1962). Mifune studied a tape of a Mexican actor speaking his dialog to memorize his lines. Then, on the shooting he was able to speak his entire part in Spanish. Despite this fact, in the finished film, his voice is dubbed by Mexican actor Narciso Busquets.
Reportedly watched films of lions in the wild for inspiration for his character in Seven Samurai (1954).
Due to his intense, intimidating screen presence and real-life status as a physical powerful tough guy and war veteran, most people (whether having known him only from film or having personally meet him) got the impression that Mifune was a much larger man than he actually was, in reality he stood 5' 9". However, even at this size he was indeed 2 or 3 inches taller than most of his male co-stars.
Close friend of Scott Glenn.
Spoke fluent Mandarin.
Personally trained the Asian extras who were hired to play the Japanese submarine crew in 1941 (1979). He was reportedly very annoyed that they were not real sailors and had no real training, so he used his own military background to teach them how to act like sailors in the film.
His prolific career included repeat roles as three of the most noted figures in Japanese history. He portrayed Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto in three separate films, has played both the real life version of the indomitable warlord Tokugawa Ieyasu in Journey of Honor (1991) and his fictionalized counterpart Toranaga in "Shogun" (1980), and has performed the role of the legendary master swordsman Miyamoto Musashi four times.
His performance as Sanjuro Kuwabatake in Yojimbo (1961) is ranked #78 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
He actually wanted to be a photographer, not an actor. He got his start in the movies when he blundered into an audition by mistake and flew into a rage.
He was considered for the role of "Mr. Miyagi" in The Karate Kid (1984) but, after the reading, the producers felt that he acted the part too scary.
Favorite actor of Akira Kurosawa.
Of Akira Kurosawa: "I am proud of nothing I have done other than with him."
(about speaking English) I can't speak English, Instead memorize English lines by the sounds of the words.
I'm not always great in pictures, but I'm always true to the Japanese spirit.
There I was, a naive man of 20. The other bewildered young recruits were stirred up to a blood lust. What a nightmare! - on the xenophobia displayed by his fellow troops in World War II
That the Japanese film is known at all in the West is due mainly to the pictures of Akira Kurosawa. That I am known both here and abroad is also mainly due to him. He taught me practically everything I know, and it was he who first introduced me to myself as an actor. Kurosawa has this quality, this ability to bring things out of you that you never knew were there. It is enormously difficult work, but each picture with him is a revelation. When you see his films, you find them full realizations of ideas, of emotions, of a philosophy which surprises with its strength, even shocks with its power. You had not expected to be so moved, to find within your own self this depth of understanding.
Snippets of him in a movie: