Ken Watanabe was born in Niigata
to school teacher parents. Though he studied acting
early on, he was hesitant to pursue a career as
an actor. Convinced by a director from England's
National Theater Company that he was truly gifted
in the art of performing, the 24 years old hopeful
soon landed his first film role.
Initial bliss was followed by harsh uncertainty
when Watanabe was diagnosed with leukemia shortly
thereafter, but the disease would eventually go
into remission and his career would skyrocket.
Though Watanabe has portrayed many different types
of characters in his long and varied career since
the early 80's, it is his skill with a sword that
has truly cemented his status as a star in Japan.
For his breakthrough role as the last in a long
line of ancient warriors in the Tom Cruise adventure
The Last Samurai (2003),
he eventually came to the attention of international
audiences and found international success. His impressive
performance in the film found him nominated for
both a 2003 Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best