Chiaki Kuriyama isn’t a well-known name in America outside her small part in Kill Bill Volume One (which was a hell of an impression) but the actress is a major star in her home country of Japan.
Born October 10, 1984, in the Ibaraki prefecture of Japan, Kuriyama started her career early as a model in 1997 before making appearances in two influential works of Japanese cinema. In 2000, the actress would appear in both Ju-On: The Grudge as well as Battle Royale,
While she had already acted in a few television and smaller roles, Ju-On was a major starring role for the young actress. Playing the part of Mizuho, a central character in one of the movie’s short segments, Kuriyama made and helped launch a massive horror franchise while doing it.
Battle Royale saw Kuriyama in a smaller role, playing just one of the many students forced to fight to the death or be taken out with an explosive collar. Her character, Chigusa, had limited time in the film but a massive impact as the actress got to flex dramatic muscles, getting an early kill in the movie with massive girl boss energy.
Her range from the furious attacker to regretful over lost love gave her a massive boost in popularity and a standout in the film, leading to an offer for the role of Gogo in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Part One. The schoolgirl bodyguard of Lucy Liu’s O-Ren Ishi, Kuriyama was sought exclusively for the part by Tarantino, citing his love of Ju-On and Battle Royale.
In return for being such a huge fan, Kuriyama accidentally hit Tarantino while filming the character’s fight scene against Uma Thurman’s Bride. Tarantino, who was standing by the camera while filming, was hit in the head by the flail, knocking him down but otherwise uninjured.
Chiaki Kuriyama got a great deal on being in a Tarantino movie though, earning fame and prestige but not being required to have her feet filmed. Take the wins where you can.
Her next American film was an extremely unfortunate step down for the actress, who pissed off someone in the cosmic order. Into the Sun, a 2005 American/Japanese production written by and starring the semi-sentient Macy’s Day Parade float known as Steven Seagal, seemingly soured the actress on American productions from then on.
She Does Everything
Back to taking roles in Japan, Chiaki Kuriyama went on to work with cult Japanese directors like Takashi Miike and Sion Sono throughout the later 2000s before moving into more television-centric roles, which in Japan are where the big stars go. She also took a turn at music and idol life in the early 2010s, releasing a few albums and singles.
Chiaki Kuriyama did make a small splash in the music scene, recording songs for major anime films in the Gundam and Gin-Tama franchises, but hasn’t released any new music since 2014, seemingly moving on from the medium to focus solely on acting.
The American-Japanese Remake Trade
While Kuriyama hasn’t worked in American film for some time, she has taken part in many Japanese remakes of popular American titles. 2015 saw her play the love interest in an adaptation of Flowers for Algernon, based on the Daniel Keyes novel. Much like the original it will leave you an emotional wreck by the end.
Notably, she also took roles in the adaptations of American shows like 24 and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, now retitled Crime Scene Talks (localization is a weird thing sometimes). The actress also teamed with Takashi Miike again in 2017 for his adaptation of the hit manga Blade of the Immortal, which was a nice return to Miike’s blood-soaked style of his early career.
While her role on CSI is ongoing (as of yet, Japanese television renewals are wild cards) her most recent role seen by international audiences was of Olivier Armstrong in the third Fullmetal Alchemist film. A live-action adaptation of the popular anime and manga, the films were received as mixed at best, with Kuriyama’s character tapping into her badass side once again.
Let’s be honest though, for a live-action anime adaptation it’s really not bad. The bar is really low, but it’s still there along with Bleach.
The actress seems to be keeping busy still, with a brand new series just debuting on Japanese television. Considering how diverse her talents are, ranging from modeling, singing, and acting, she won’t be out of work for very long.
The actress is very quiet about her private life, with not much shown outside of fan appearances and interviews. Though this isn’t strange for major stars in Japan, as their lives are often projected through multiple publicists and other PR people before being shown to the public. She seems, in all appearances, a genuinely kind person though.