Date of Birth : Oct 21st 1959
Japanese Oscar-nominated stage, film, and television actor. To English-speaking audiences he is known for playing tragic hero characters, including such roles as General Tadamichi Kuribayashi in Letters from Iwo Jima and Lord Katsumoto in The Last Samurai, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Supporting Actor category.
Watanabe is mostly known in Japan for playing samurai, as in the 1987 Dokuganryu Masamune (One eyed dragon, Masamune) the 50-episode NHK drama for which he is now best known. He played the lead character, Matsudaira Kur?, in the television jidaigeki Gokenin Zankur?, which ran for several seasons. He has gone on to earn acclaim in such historical dramas as Oda Nobunaga, Chushingura, and the movie Bakumatsu Junjo Den.
n 2002, he quit the En (Enegki-Shudan En) theater group where he had his start and joined the K-Dash agency. The film Sennen no Koi (Thousand-year Love, based on The Tale of Genji) earned him another Japanese Academy Award nomination. In 2006, he finally won Best Lead Actor at the Japanese Academy Awards for his role in Memories of tomorrow (Ashita no Kioku), where he played a patient with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Watanabe was introduced to most Western audiences with the 2003 film The Last Samurai for which his performance as Katsumoto earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.