Rinko Kikuchi

Rinko Kikuchi

Born Yuriko Kikuchi in Kanagawa, Japan, Kikuchi was the youngest of three children and an only daughter. From the time she was a young girl Kikuchi loved movies, but it was her introduction to the films of John Cassavetes and the striking performances of his wife Gena Rowlands that inspired her to begin acting. Agents encouraged Kikuchi to start her career with commercial modeling, but the feisty teen found it boring and also rejected suggestions that she learn to be a pop singer, as her sights were firmly set on dramatic film acting. Her earliest big screen appearances were in a pair of films by renowned Japanese director Kaneto Shindo: "Ikitai" (1999) and "Sanmon Yakusha" (2000). Kikuchi appeared in Hiroshi Sugawara's drama "Drug" (2001) and on several Japanese TV shows and in TV movies, landing her first lead in Kazuyoshi Kumakiri's feature "Hole of the Sky" (2001), which was shown at the Rotterdam Film Festival, the Berlin International Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival. Kikuchi also had a supporting role in "The Taste of Tea" (2004), a charming family drama from young filmmaker Katsuhito Ishii that was shown at the Cannes Film Festival and received an excellent reception at festivals around the world. Kikuchi re-teamed with Ishii for "Funky Forest: The First Contact" (2005), a series of interconnected stories in which the actress showcased her comic talent with her portrayal of a high school class presidentMeanwhile, in 2004, award-winning Mexican film director Alejandro González Iñárritu began looking for an actress with the precise mix of defiance, desire and grief for the role of Chieko in "Babel," the third film in the director's "death trilogy" which included previous acclaimed films "Amores Perros" (2000) and "21 Grams" (2003). Iñárritu was "blown away" by Rikuchi's audition, but reluctant to cast her in the role of a hearing-impaired girl. When no other actress came close to capturing "the spirit, sadness and isolation" of the character who has been traumatized by the suicide of her mother, he cast her. The film was an overwhelming success and a boon to Kikuchi's career, as the newcomer shared credit alongside such talent as Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. She earned Best Supporting Actress nominations from the Golden Globes and the Oscars, becoming the first Japanese actress ever nominated in that category. Kikuchi was also named Best Breakthrough Actress by the National Board of Review and Best Supporting Actress by the Chicago Film Critics Association.Kikuchi returned to Japan for her next few features, the adventure movie "Warau Mikaeru" ("Arch Angels") (2006), indie film "Zukan ni Nottenai Mushi (2007) and the romantic comedy "Tokyo Serendipity" (2007), from young director Akiko Okuin. She voiced the anime adaptation of the novel "The Sky Crawlers" (2008) and had a leading role in the actioner "Rebellion: The Killing Isle" (2008). She returned to Hollywood to play a key role alongside Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody in "The Brothers Bloom" (2009), a heist comedy in which Kikuchi again remained silent as the pair's mute sidekick. In 2009, Kikuchi also starred in a Japanese remake of the American indie film hit "Sideways" and "Map of the Sounds of Tokyo," a dramatic thriller from Spanish filmmaker Isabel Coixet. The following year, she was featured in the moody and atmospheric adaptation of Haruki Murakami's beloved novel Norwegian Wood, and later drastically switched gears to play a determined monster fighter in the sci-fi spectacle "Pacific Rim" (2013), directed by imaginative movie mastermind Guillermo del Toro. Following a supporting role in the Keanu Reeves action vehicle "47 Ronin" (2013), Kikuchi drew raves for her sensitive performance in the title role of the quirky drama "Kumiko the Treasure Hunter" (2014), as a troubled Japanese woman obsessed with the film "Fargo" (1996).