Watanabe Ken is well-known to western movie audiences for his roles in such films as The Last Samurai, Memoirs of a Geisha, Letters from Iwo Jima and Godzilla.
Watanabe Kensaku 渡辺謙
Ken Watanabe is probably the most familiar Japanese actor to contemporary western audiences having appeared in a number of successful Hollywood productions including The Last Samurai, Memoirs of a Geisha and Letters from Iwo Jima.
Watanabe is best known for his portrayals of tragic heroes and samurai characters in such roles as that of Date Masamune in the 1980's NHK drama Dokuganryu Masamune and Jubee Kamata in Yurusarezaru Mono (Unforgiven).
Watanabe Ken was born in Niigata Prefecture to parents who were both teachers, his mother a school teacher and his father a tutor of calligraphy. After graduating from high school, he was set on a path to study music but chose to enter a theater company in Tokyo instead.
After various roles on the stage and on TV, Watanabe's big screen debut was in MacArthur's Children (1984).
Ken Watanabe's first hit with a worldwide audience was as Lord Katsumoto Moritsugu (loosely based on Saigo Takamori) alongside Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai followed by roles in Batman Begins and Inception.
Watanabe Ken also starred in the 2014 movie Godzilla.
In his private life, Watanabe Ken has been twice married, suffered from serious bouts of ill-health and has two children and an adopted son. He has appeared at various international forums to campaign for help for people affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku.