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James Shigeta, one of the first Japanese-American actors to gain stardom in Hollywood, has died. The actor, who appeared in the film version of The Flower Drum Song and later the ‘80s action hit Die Hard, was 81.
Shigeta died on Monday, Variety confirms. He continued acting through 2009, appearing in Quentin Lee’s The People I’ve Slept With.
The actor was born in Honolulu, but went NYU to study acting. He later joined the Marines and entertained troops in Korea. He didn’t know how to speak Japanese, but still won Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour and became a star in Japan. But he finally broke into Hollywood with The Crimson Kimono in 1959. That earned him a Golden Globe for most promising newcomer, which he shared with Guy Hamilton, Barry Coe and Troy Donahue.
Other film appearances include The Flower Drum Song, which allowed him to show off his singing skills; Midway (1976); Lost Horizon (1973); and Paradise, Hawaiian Style with Elvis Presley. In Die Hard, he played the executive Alan Rickman’s character shot in the head.
However, Shigeta did most of his work on TV. He appeared in The Love Boat, Beverly Hills, 90210, Perry Mason and Hawaii Five-0.
According to Reuters, his agent said he is survived by a sister and three brothers.