A veteran actor known for a long string of television roles, who also appeared in major feature films and was a recording artist and musical theater performer, has died. Variety reports that James Shigeta, who was one of the first prominent Asian-American actors, died Monday at 81.
“Though largely a TV actor who guest-starred on dozens of shows, he appeared memorably in hit 1988 action film ‘Die Hard,’ in which he played executive Joseph Takagi, who refuses to give up the security code to the skyscraper’s bank vault when a group of German terrorists seizes the building. He was shot in the head by the group’s leader, Hans Gruber, played by Alan Rickman,” the story reports.
His appearances on television spanned the 1950s through the 2000s, including a string of guest roles on such TV staples as “Hawaii Five-0,” “Perry Mason,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Ironside,” “Kung Fu,” “The Love Boat” and “Beverly Hills, 90210.” His last TV credit was in 2005, in the series “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” where Shigeta played Old Wanderer.
“In the big-budget WWII film ‘Midway’ (1976), which told the story of the key battle from both American and Japanese points of view, Shigeta was featured prominently in the role of Vice Admiral Nagumo, whose despair at Japan’s loss in the battle is moving,” Variety adds.
Shigeta had a starring role in the 1961 feature “Flower Drum Song,” which showcased his singing and dancing talents. He appeared most recently in the 2009 movie “The People I’ve Slept With.”
“Shigeta was born in Honolulu and studied acting at NYU, then joined the Marines, where he entertained troops during the Korean War,” Variety reports. “He became a singing star in Japan despite not knowing any Japanese, and won first place on ‘Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour,’ the ‘American Idol’ of its day.”
He won a Golden Globe in 1960 for most promising male newcomer, sharing the award with Barry Coe, Troy Donahue and George Hamilton.