Sonny Chiba has died at the age of 82.

Sonny Chiba

Sonny Chiba

The Japanese actor and martial arts legend passed away on Thursday (19.08.21) as a result of COVID-19 complications.

Sonny enjoyed a screen career spanning half a century and was best known to Western audiences for his role as the swordsman Hattori Hanzo in Quentin Tarantino's 'Kill Bill'.

Chiba's agent Timothy Beal said he was "a humble, caring and friendly man" and described his passing as "such tragic news".

He also starred in the 'Street Fighter' trilogy during the 1970s and 'The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift', as well as countless films in his homeland.

Chiba demonstrated his martial arts skills in several of his projects and would go on to choreograph fight scenes later in his career.

Paying tribute on social media, 'Mortal Kombat' actor Lewis Tan wrote: "A true action legend. Your films are eternal and your energy an inspiration."

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organisation responsible for the Oscars, described Sonny as a "legend" who "blended toughness with depth".

The Academy tweeted: "In 50 years on screen, Shinichi 'Sonny' Chiban grew from actor to fight choreographer to legend. A black belt in six martial arts, he blended toughness with depth in films like 'The Street Fighter', 'Kill Bill Vol. 1' and 'The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift'. He will be missed."

Sonny once revealed how he loved playing villainous roles.

He said in a 2007 interview: "For me, the most enjoyable role to play is the bad guy."

Sonny had also been set to work on 'Outbreak Z', an upcoming movie starring Wesley Snipes, prior to his death.