Veteran actor Ren Osugi passed away earlier today from heart failure. He was only 66. It’s not often that I write about someone’s passing but I can’t let Osugi’s go by without a few words.
I’ve grown up watching Japanese films and one person in particular kept cropping up and that was Ren Osugi. He has worked on projects directed by Takeshi Kitano, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, SABU, Shinya Tsukamoto, Sion Sono, Takashi Miike, and other major directors my generation have been influenced by. Usually it was a small part such as a detective in some horror movie or a gangster in a Kitano film but he had such skill and versatility as an actor that he appeared in many more films and doramas and he could hold a film down and bring depth to his characters, no matter what their place in the plot was.
Whatever the role, whether big or small, he brought his presence to a character and made it his own. Usually there was a dose of black comedy that went along with his mischievous smile but he had a wide range that extended to serious roles and that helped imprint him in my memory. Uzumaki showed his weird side but his performance as a hair-mad corpse raider made the film Exte as he chased the main protagonist and her sister for their long locks was so outrageous that it made the film. Audition had him in a short scene but it is endlessly remembered while he was fun in MPD Psycho. His rendition of the old writer in Bitter Honey made the film a moving look at mortality rather than a camera gazing creepily at Fumi Nikaido and their double-act became touching. I was genuinely sad when his character was no longer on screen in Shin Gojira. He gave a twist to his performance in Nightmare Detective and his gangster in Eyes of the Spider presented many hilarious spit-take moments.
His roles in Kitano movies switched between comedy and drama as Sonatine and Getting Any? and Hana-bi showed dramatic and comedic brilliance. Check out this scene and see how he works with Kitano to own this scene as a police partner with a massive change in his life to deal with. His resigned look and his contemplative deep but gentle voice combine with Joe Hisaishi’s music to bring a powerful tone to proceedings:
These few words cannot do him justice. What does give across his skill is the fact he was constantly in work. Whenever I saw his name in the cast list, I made sure to include it in my trailer posts and information. Ren Osugi may have passed away but he leaves a wealth of work and memories for fans, friends, colleagues, and family and so he will live forever.
Here are some images that were floating around on this blog.
Ren Osugi R.I.P. (September 27, 1951 – February 21, 2018)