Rinko Kikuchi

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You may not necessarily recognize the name Rinko Kikuchi, but if you’ve seen the recent and critically acclaimed film Babel (2006) starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, then you’ll definitely recognize the face.

Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi was born on January 6, 1981 as “Yukiko Kikuchi” in Kanagawa, Japan, and has successfully crossed over from Japanese cinema to the American film industry, achieving a coveted U.S. Academy Award nomination for her role as Chieko in Babel. Through this accomplishment, Kikuchi joined the small ranks of only five other Asian actors earning an Academy Award nomination: Sessue Hayakawa (1957’s The Bridge on the River Kwai), Mako (1966’s The Sand Pebbles), Miyoshi Umeki and Haing S; Ngor (1984’s The Killing Fields), and Ken Watanabe for The Last Samurai, starring Tom Cruise, in 2003.

Besides film acting, Kikuchi has also appeared and starred on stage, on T.V. series, and in a wide variety of television commercials as well as music videos. Kikuchi made her film debut with an appearance in Kaneto Shindo’s Ikitai in 1999, after which she appeared in 2000’s Sanmon yakusha and in 2001 took more major roles in the praised film Sora no ana—which was featured in many different international film festivals—as Taeko, as well as in Drug as the character Mai.

Kikuchi also appeared in the 2004 film Cha no Aji, directed by Katsuhito Ishii, a film that ended up being selected for the Cannes Film Festival. Her biggest role, however, was yet to come. In 2006, she portrayed a deaf teenager, Chieko Wataya in the wildly successful, popular, and award-winning film Babel, in which American actors Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett starred. Besides being nominated for an American Academy Award as well as for a Golden Globe Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Babel, Kikuchi did win a few awards, including a Chicago Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actress Award, a Gotham Award (for Best Ensemble Cast along with the rest of Babel’s cast) as well as for Best Breakthrough Award, and a National Board of Review Awards for Best Female Breakthrough Performance.

Kikuchi was also noticed by renowned director Rian Johnson, who decided to cast her in his next film, The Brothers Bloom, set for release in 2008, alongside Rachel Weisz, Mark Ruffalo, and Adrien Brody. Other facts that fans may consider interesting about Kikuchi are that her interests (as well as talents, arguably) other than acting lie in sword-fighting, motorcycling, and horseback riding.

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