people

Tatsuya Nakadai

Tatsuya Nakadai

A dynamic, handsome star who got his start in Japanese cinema during its 1950s golden age, the Tokyo-born Tatsuya Nakadai defies easy categorization. He is convincing whether playing a mercenary lone wolf or a heartsick love interest, a hero or a villain, in a sleek suit or samurai robes, and just as comfortable blending in to an ensemble as commanding a spotlight. The stage-trained actor was discovered, while working as a shop clerk, in 1953 by director Masaki Kobayashi, who promptly cast him in a tiny role in the controversial drama The Thick-Walled Room; a year later, he was given a walk-on part in Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. After a major breakthrough as a young yakuza in Kobayashi’s Black River, Nakadai was on his way to becoming one of Japan’s busiest actors; he would work several more times with both Kobayashi and Kurosawa, as well as Hideo Gosha, Kon Ichikawa, Mikio Naruse, Kihachi Okamoto, and Hiroshi Teshigahara—the cream of the nation’s crop of film artists. Nakadai, still acting into his eighties, is perhaps most often recalled for his ravaging performances in Kobayashi’s epic war drama The Human Condition (1959–61) and Kurosawa’s Ran (1985), in which he embodies unforgettably a cinematic King Lear for the ages.