“He's a very passionate man. He is actually very detailed oriented as far as the emotional arc of the character. He knows every single thing about the character that I was playing; every single emotion. He knew what worked best on screen. Basically knowing that he trusted me on the set, that was an incredible experience. It was really great working with him.” Rinko Kikuchi (on director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi received international stardom thanks to her Academy Award-nominated performance as a tragic teenage deaf-mute in the director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s revelatory film “Babel” (2006). With an Oscar nomination under her belt, she is the first Japanese performer to receive such a prestigious nomination in 50 years and the only living female Academy Award nominee in Japan following the death of Miyoshi Umeki in August 2007. Her mesmerizing, emotional scene-stealing role in the film also won Kikuchi a National Board of Review Award, a Chicago Film Critics Association Award, two Gotham Awards and a Palm Springs International Film Festival Award. She also received Golden Globe, SAG, Broadcast Film Critics Association, Online Film Critics Society and Satellite nominations.
Making her debut in the 1999 award-winning Japanese movie “Will to Live,” the former model appeared in “Hole in the Sky” (2001), “Tori/Kokorono Katana” (2004), “The Taste of Tea” (2004) and “Funky Forest: The First Contact” (2005), before scoring her Hollywood debut in “Babel.” Her more recent and upcoming film credits include Rian Johnson's “The Brothers Bloom” (2008, opposite Rachel Weisz), Cellin Gluck's “Sideways” (2009), Isabel Coixet's “Map of the Sounds of Tokyo” (2009) and Mikael Hafstrom's “Shanghai” (2009).
Kikuchi was named one of Variety Magazine's “10 Actors to Watch” in 2007. Currently, she resides in central Tokyo with her long-time beau, actor Federico Aletta.
Childhood and Family:
Rinko Kikuchi was born Yuriko Kikuchi on January 6, 1981, in Kanagawa, Japan. She has two older brothers.
An exceptional girl, Rinko is a skilled horseback rider and motorcycle driver. She is also a master with the Japanese archery “Kyudo,” Japanese dance “Nihonbuyo” and Japanese Sword skill “Iai.”
“I have liked to act since I was a very young child. I have two older brothers and my mother's attention was always on them because they were naughty. So I sometimes acted crying to draw her attention. I guess that was the starting point.” Rinko Kikuchi
Rinko Kikuchi began her career as a model in Japan. She appeared in TV commercials, but soon grew bored with the profession and quit. Using her birth name, Kikuchi eventually got her start in the movie industry at age 18 with a small part in “Ikitai/Will to Live” (1999), which was primarily released in Japan and Europe. Directed by Kaneto Shindo, the film won the FIPRESCI Prize and the Golden St. George at the Moscow International Film Festival.
Despite never studying acting formally, Kikuchi was a natural in front of the camera. She landed a role in the based-on-book “Sanmon yakusha/By Player” (2000). She did not score her first starring role until director Kazuyoshi Komuri hired her to portray Taeko in “Sora no Ana/Hole in the Sky” (2001), an acclaimed drama adapted from a novel by Randy Taguchi. The film was shown at several international festivals, including the 2001 Rotterdam Film Festival, the 2001 Berlin International Film Festival and the 2003 Toronto Film Festival.
Following her strong performance in “Sora no Ana,” Kikuchi appeared in the Japanese drama “Drug” (also 2001), helmed by Hiroshi Sugawara, and Shinji Aoyama's direct-to-video-release “Shiritsu tantei Hama Maiku: Namae no nai mori/Mike Yokohama: A Forest with No Name” (2002). She again offered a memorable turn in the Tadanobu Asano-directed “Tori/Kokorono Katana” (2004). Also that year, she acted in director/writer Katsuhito Ishii's critically acclaimed “Cha no Aji/The Taste of Tea,” which was chosen for the 57th Cannes Film Festival, the award-winning drama “69,” Gen Sekiguchi's black comedy “Survive Style 5+,” and the based-on-novel “Riyu/The Reason,” for director Nobuhiko Obayashi.
Having changed her professional name to Rinko Kikuchi, the young actress portrayed the wife of Mari's brother in “Taga tameni/Portrait of the Wind” (2005) and teamed up with directors Katsuhito Ishii, Hajime Ishimine and Shunichiro Miki for the comedy “Naisu no mori: The First Contact/Funky Forest: The First Contact” (2005), in which she showcased her comical talent. However, she did not enjoy a major breakthrough in the United States until the next year.
Kikuchi won the coveted role of Chieko Wataya, a deaf-mute, in the critically-praised drama “Babel” (2006), directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Playing opposite such big names as Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, the Japanese beauty displayed her potential and successfully took home the prestigious Academy Award nomination in the category of Best Supporting Actress. With the nomination, she made history by joining Jane Wyman, Patty Duke, Holly Hunter and Samantha Morton to become the fifth actress to be nominated for an Oscar for a role in which they do not speak a word. Kikuchi also received the Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Golden Globes, the SAG, the Satellite, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and a nomination at the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards in the category of Most Promising Performer. She won a National Board of Review for Best Breakthrough Performance- Female, two Gothams for Best Ensemble Cast and Breakthrough Award, a Palm Springs International Film Festival for Ensemble Performance and a Chicago Film Critics Association for Best Supporting Actress. Commenting about her many nominations, she stated, “I'm really thankful for it. I never expected it at all. In Japan we normally don't spend so much time promoting one film. My work on 'Babel,' as an actress I mean, happened so long ago already.” Rinko Kikuchi
Also in 2006, Kikuchi was seen in the adventure film “Warau Mikaeru/Arch Angels,” which was released in Japan and the Netherlands.
Kikuchi returned to Japan to portray Sayoko in Satoshi Miki's comedy, “Zukan ni nottenai mushi/Deathfix: Die and Let Live” (2007), and Atsuko Junda in the romantic “Koi suru madori/Tokyo Serendipity” (2007), directed by first time director Akiko Oku. Talking about the latter movie, she said, “It's a romantic comedy, a Japanese film. The director is a newcomer, Akiko Oku, and it's produced by Hiroko Matsuda and Office Shirous. Romantic comedies are tough because so much depends on the interplay between the actors, the rhythm and the exchange of dialogue. It's a big challenge for me.”
Kikuchi did voice over work in the Japanese animation film “Genius Party” (2007) and again contributed her vocals to the 2008 animated film “Sukai kurora/The Sky Crawlers,” in which she starred as Suito Kusanagi. She then appeared with Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo in “The Brothers Bloom” (2008), playing Bang Bang. Premiering at the Toronto Film Festival on September 9, 2008, the Rian Johnson-directed/written film will be released theatrically in the United States in May 2009.
One of the stars of “Rebellion: The Killing Isle,” a Japanese action film released in December 2008, Kikuchi will soon star alongside Matthew Asner and Anna Easteden in the based-on-novel “Sideways” (2009), directed by Cellin Gluck. She is also scheduled to star as Ryu in “Map of the Sounds of Tokyo” (2009), a dramatic thriller from the Spanish filmmaker Isabel Coixet, and work with Jeffrey Dean Morgan, John Cusack, David Morse, Franka Potente, Chow Yun-Fat and Gong Li in the drama film “Shanghai” (2009), directed by the Swedish-born Mikael Hafstrom.
“I have always liked Sean Penn and Daniel Day Lewis, so I hope to have a chance to work with them. At this time, I will start working on a love story movie in Japan from January. After that, I have received several scripts but have not decided which to do. I have more offers from the U.S. than from Japan.”
Palm Springs International Film Festival: Ensemble Performance, “Babel,” 2007
Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA): Best Supporting Actress, “Babel,” 2006
Gotham: Best Ensemble Cast, “Babel,” 2006
Gotham: Breakthrough Award, “Babel,” 2006
National Board of Review (NBR): Best Breakthrough Performance - Female, “Babel,” 2006