Yoshio Harada, an actor who played everything from long-haired rebels to irascible granddads in a four-decade career, died of pneumonia in Tokyo on Tuesday, July 19. He was 71.
Harada was a favorite of generations of Japanese helmers for his rugged features, low, rumbling voice and distinctive presence, with shades of darkness and wildness that made him a natural for antihero roles in his youth. As he aged he played more character roles and fewer lead roles, but he was never out of demand and made more than 100 films during his career.
Born in Tokyo, Harada entered the film business relatively late, in 1968, but a series of appearances as rebels and outlaws in the Nikkatsu studio’s New Action line of exploitation pics boosted him to stardom. He also appeared in the serious art films produced by the Art Theater Guild, such as Kazuo Kuroki’s “The Assassination of Ryoma” (1974) and “Preparation for the Funeral” (1975) and Seijun Suzuki’s “Tsigoineruwaizen” (1980).
Among the directors for whom he worked are Azuma Morisaki, Kaizo Hayashi, Kihachi Okamoto, Genjiro Arata, Rokuro Mochizuki, Jun Ichikawa, Katsuhito Ito, Toshiaki Toyoda and Koji Wakamatsu. He kept working steadily into his seventh decade, including turns for indie maestro Hirokazu Kore’eda in “Still Walking” (2008) and “I Wish” (2011).
Harada made his last public appearance on July 11 for the opening of the Jun Sakamoto comedy “Oshikamura Sodoki.”