Mako 1933–(Mako Iwamatsu, Jimmy Sakuyama)
(Mako Iwamatsu, Jimmy Sakuyama)
Full name, Makoto Iwamatsu; born December 10, 1933, in Kobe, Japan; immigrated to the United States, 1949; naturalized citizen, 1956; married Shizuko Hoshi (a dancer, choreographer, dance teacher, and actress); children: two daughters. Education: Attended Pratt Institute; studied for the theatre at the Pasadena Playhouse and with Nola Chilton.
Addresses: Agent— Amsel, Eisenstadt & Frazier, 5757 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 510, Los Angeles, CA 90036.
Career: Actor, director, and playwright. East/West Players, Los Angeles, CA, founder and artistic director, 1966–89; Children's Workshop, Los Angeles, founder and artistic director, 1966—; Inner City Repertory Theatre, Los Angeles, member of company, 1967–68. Sometimes credited as Jimmy Sakuyama. Military service: Served in U.S. Armed Forces during Korean War.
Member: Actors' Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Awards, Honors: Academy Award nomination, Golden Globe Award nomination, best supporting actor, 1967, both for The Sand Pebbles; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best actor in a musical, 1976, for Pacific Overtures; Margaret Harford Award, Los Angeles Drama Critics, 1986; Lifetime Achievement Award, Bearfest, 2002; Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Po–Han, The Sand Pebbles, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1966.
Kenji, The Ugly Dachshund, Buena Vista, 1966.
Calvin Coolidge Ishimura, The Private Navy of Sergeant O'Farrell, United Artists, 1968.
Secret Service Agent Eliot Fong, The Great Bank Robbery, Warner Bros., 1969.
Psychiatrist, Fools, Cinerama, 1970.
Mun Ki, The Hawaiians (also known as Master of the Islands ), United Artists, 1970.
(As Mako Iwamatsu) Chinmoku (also known as Silence ), 1972.
Oomiak, The Island at the Top of the World, Buena Vista, 1974.
Yuen Chung, The Killer Elite, United Artists, 1975.
Sergeant Nguyen, Prisoners, 1975.
Enjiro, The Bushido Blade (also known as The Bloody Bushido Blade ), Trident, 1979.
Herbert, The Big Brawl (also known as Battle Creek, Battle Creek Brawl, and Sha shou hao ), Warner Bros., 1980.
James Chan, An Eye for an Eye, Avco–Embassy, 1981.
Nakamura, Under the Rainbow, Orion/Warner Bros., 1981.
Akiro the Wizard, Conan the Barbarian, Universal, 1982.
Mike, Testament, Paramount, 1983.
Akiro the Wizard, Conan the Destroyer, Universal, 1984.
Akira Tanaka, Armed Response (also known as Jade Jungle ), CineTel, 1986.
Captain Vinh, P.O.W.: The Escape (also known as Behind Enemy Lines ), Cannon, 1986.
Nobu Matsumoto, The Wash, Skouras, 1988.
Dyama, Silent Assassins, Action Brothers, 1988.
Jimmy Sakuyama, Tucker: The Man and His Dream, Paramount, 1988.
Max Chin, An Unremarkable Life, CFG, 1989.
Sakamoto, Taking Care of Business (also known as Filofax ), Buena Vista, 1990.
Toshio Watanabe, Pacific Heights, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1990.
Trang, Fatal Mission (also known as Enemy ), Media Home Entertainment, 1990.
Kim, The Perfect Weapon, Paramount, 1991.
Strawberry Road (also known as Sutoberi Road ), 1991.
Narrator, Nightingale, 1992.
Mr. Lee, Sidekicks, Triumph Releasing, 1993.
Kanemitsu, Robocop 3, Orion, 1993.
Mr. Tszing, My Samurai, Imperial Entertainment, 1993.
Katsu, Cultivating Charlie, 1993.
Yoshida–San, Rising Sun, Twentieth Century–Fox, 1993.
No Surrender, 1993.
Nakano, Highlander: The Final Dimension (also known as Highlander III: The Sorcerer, Highlander 3: The Final Conflict, Highlander III, Highlander: The Magician, and Highlander III: The Magician ), Dimension Films, 1994.
Buun Som, Midnight Man (also known as Blood for Blood ), 1994.
Sensei, A Dangerous Place, PM Home Video, 1995.
Shudo Shmizaki, Crying Freeman, Warner Bros., 1995.
Mr. Young, Sworn to Justice (also known as Blonde Justice ), Maslak/Friedenn Films, 1996.
Matsumoto, Balance of Power, Live Entertainment, 1996.
Kungo Tsarong, Seven Years in Tibet, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 1997.
The Sea Wolf, Concorde, 1997.
Shen, Chugoku no chojin (also known as The Bird People in China ), 1998.
Old Momo, Alegia, 1998.
(As Mako Iwamatsu) Police, Kyohansha, 1999.
Mr. Hiro, Talk to Taka, AtomFilms, 2000.
Voice of Mr. Yamaguchi, Rugrats in Paris: The Movie— Rugrats II (animated; also known as Rugrats in Paris—Der Film and Rugrats in Paris: The Movie ), Paramount, 2000.
(In archive footage) Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey (also known as A Warrior's Journey ), Warner Bros., 2000.
Admiral Isoruku Yamamoto, Pearl Harbor (also known as Pearl Harbour ), Buena Vista, 2001.
Straw Hat, She Said I Love You (also known as Cruel Game and Deception ), 2001.
Mr. Kojima, Bulletproof Monk, Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, 2003.
Television Appearances; Series:
Major Taro Oshira, Hawaiian Heat, ABC, 1984.
Main title narrator, Dexter's Laboratory (also known as Dexter's Lab and Dexter de Shiyanshi; animated), Cartoon Network, 1996—.
Voice of Aku, Samurai Jack (animated), Cartoon Network, 2001—.
Master Li, Black Sash, The WB, 2003.
Television Appearances; Movies:
Yuro, The Challenge, ABC, 1970.
Tadashi, If Tomorrow Comes (also known as The Glass Hammer ), ABC, 1971.
Fukimoto, Farewell to Manzanar, NBC, 1976.
Kanji Ousu, Columbo: Murder under Glass, 1977.
Major Bai, When Hell Was in Session, NBC, 1979.
Mori, Girls of the White Orchid (also known as Death Ride to Osaka ), NBC, 1983.
The Manchu, Kung Fu: The Movie, CBS, 1986.
Captain Kilalo, Murder in Paradise, NBC, 1990.
Sergeant Moritaki, Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes, NBC, 1990.
Buntoro Iga, Red Sun Rising, HBO, 1994.
Mr. Lee, "Gold Mountain," Riot (also known as Riot in the Streets ), Showtime, 1997.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Kenji, The Streets of San Francisco, ABC, 1972.
Tao Gan, Judge Dee and the Monastery Murders (also known as The Haunted Monastery ), ABC, 1974.
Mataro Sakura, The Last Ninja, ABC, 1983.
Major Taro Oshira, Hawaiian Heat, ABC, 1984.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Ben Chang, The Last Ferry Home, syndicated, 1992.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
The Japanese sentry, "Movies Are Your Best Diversion," McHale's Navy, 1962.
First Japanese, "The Captain's Mission," McHale's Navy, 1963.
Frank Fakuda, "One Puka Puka," The Gallant Men, 1963.
Captain Uzaki, "One Enchanted Weekend," McHale's Navy, 1963.
Lieutenant Yamasake, "McHale and His Schweinhunds," McHale's Navy, 1963.
First Japanese soldier, "Have Kimono, Will Travel," McHale's Navy, 1963.
Third Japanese soldier, "A Letter for Fuji," McHale's Navy, 1963.
Sessua, "The Balloon Goes Up," McHale's Navy, 1964.
Pete, "Who Killed April?," Burke's Law, 1964.
Kato, "Jeannie and the Marriage Caper," I Dream of Jeannie, NBC, 1965.
Jimmy, "No Exchange on Damaged Merchandise," I Spy, NBC, 1965.
Jimmy, "The Loser," I Spy, 1965.
Happy Tuava, "The Prisoners of Mr. Sin," Burke's Law, 1965.
Casey, "The War Between Men, Women and Gidget," Gidget, 1965.
Baby Face, "Court of the Lion," I Spy, 1966.
Low Sing, "The Preying Mantis," The Green Hornet, 1966.
"From Karate with Love," F Troop, ABC, 1967.
Lieutenant Nakamura, "Kill Two by Two," The Time Tunnel, ABC, 1967.
Simba, "Alfred of the Amazon," Vacation Playhouse, 1967.
Wong Lo, "Rimfire," The Big Valley, ABC, 1968.
Yoshimura, "Southwind," The F.B.I., ABC, 1968.
Wong Ti Lu, "The Tide," Kung Fu, ABC, 1973.
"Love and the Fortune Cookie," Love, American Style, 1973.
Dr. Lin Tam, "Rainbow Bridge," M*A*S*H, CBS, 1974.
"Enter Tami Okada," Mannix, CBS, 1974.
Kazuo Tahashi, "Legacy of Terror," Hawaii Five–O, ABC, 1976.
Major Choi, ROK surgeon, "Hawkeye Get Your Gun," M*A*S*H, CBS, 1976.
Masu Murakami, "Gold Watch," Visions, 1976.
Mr. Yamaguchi, "Touch of Death," Quincy, 1977.
Li Sung, "Another Path," The Incredible Hulk, CBS, 1978.
Li Sung, "The Disciple," The Incredible Hulk, CBS, 1979.
Mr. Brown, "Going, Going, Gone," Wonder Woman, CBS, 1979.
Lieutenant Hung Lee Park, "Guerilla My Dreams," M*A*S*H, CBS, 1979.
Kirby, "Pirouette," Supertrain, 1979.
North Korean soldier, "The Best of Enemies," M*A*S*H, CBS, 1980.
Tozan, "The Arrow That Is Not Aimed," Magnum, P.I., CBS, 1982.
"The Pied Piper," Bring 'Em Back Alive, CBS, 1982.
Mr. Wakamatsu, "The Americanization of Miko," The Facts of Life, 1982.
"The Travels of Marco ... and Friends," Voyagers!, 1982.
John Moroshima, "Sword of Honor, Blade of Death," Quincy, 1982.
Master of Flowers, "Thirty Seconds over Little Tokyo," The Greatest American Hero, ABC, 1983.
Lin, "Recipe for Heavy Bread," The A–Team, NBC, 1983.
Inspector Toshi, Ohara, ABC, 1987.
Tommy Nguyen, "My Brother's Keeper," Spenser: For Hire, ABC, 1987.
Trahn, "Sitting Duck," Tour of Duty, CBS, 1987.
Thanarat, "Riding the Elephant," The Equalizer, CBS, 1988.
Yo Tin, Supercarrier, ABC, 1988.
Kao, "Dangerous Cargo," Paradise, CBS, 1990.
"The Wash," American Playhouse, PBS, 1990.
Toshiro Tanaka, "Black Virgin of Vladimir," Lovejoy, 1991.
Toshiro Tanaka, "Riding in Rollers," Lovejoy, 1991.
Li Sung, "Tournament," Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, syndicated, 1994.
Sam Tanaka, "Author, Author," Frasier, NBC, 1994.
Mr. Loo, "Dying to Live," Platypus Man, UPN, 1995.
Dr. Henry Lee, "Heart of the Dragon," Walker, Texas Ranger, CBS, 1997.
Ichiro Higashimori, "Innocence," JAG, CBS, 1998.
Master Reng, "Requiem," Martial Law, CBS, 1999.
Master Reng, "Red Storm," Martial Law, CBS, 1999.
Henry Muranaka, "Dirty Laundry," 7th Heaven, The WB, 1999.
Edward Song, "Black Dragons," Walker, Texas Ranger, CBS, 2000.
Kajimori, "The Inquisitor," The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, CBS, 2000.
Lee Moy, "The Red's Shoes," Diagnosis Murder, CBS, 2001.
Also appeared as interviewee, "The Sand Pebbles," History vs. Hollywood, History Channel; Makumura, Shaky Ground, Fox; Mr. Li, Lost at Home, ABC; in Ironside, NBC; Ensign O'Toole; 77 Sunset Strip.
Taki, A Banquet for the Moon, Theatre Marquee, New York City, 1961.
Pacific Overtures, East/West Players, Los Angeles, 1967–1968.
Hokusai Sketchbooks, East/West Players, 1967–1968.
Gold Watch, Inner City Repertory Theatre, Los Angeles, 1972.
(Broadway debut) The Reciter, Shogun, and Jonathan Goble, Pacific Overtures, Winter Garden Theatre, 1976.
Station J, East/West Players, 1981.
Sam Shikaze, Yellow Fever, Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, 47th Street Theatre, New York City, 1983.
Nobu, The Wash, Center Theatre Group, Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles, 1985.
Shimada/Toshio Uchiyama, Shimada, Broadhurst Theatre, New York City, 1992.
(With Shizuko Hoshi) The Fisher King, Center Theatre Group, Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles Music Center, Los Angeles, 1976.
The Music Lessons, New York Shakespeare Festival, Public Theatre, New York City, 1980.
F.O.B. (Fresh Off the Boat), New York Shakespeare Festival, Public Theatre, 1980.
There's No Place Like a Tired Ghost, produced at Inner City Repertory Theatre, Los Angeles, 1972.
(With Dom Magwili) Christmas in Camp, produced by East/West Players, Los Angeles, 1981.
Notable Asian Americans, Gale Research, 1995.
Japanese-American actor Mako (1933–2006), who used only that single name professionally, almost single-handedly established a tradition of Asian-American theater in the United States, providing inspiration in the process to several generations of film and television performers. Mako himself had a high-visibility Hollywood career, beginning with an Academy Award-nominated performance in the film The Sand Pebbles (1966).
"In 1965," noted David Henry Hwang in the Los Angeles Times, "there were no Asians in America. At least according to Hollywood, there were only Orientals, Japanese and Korean enemies, mysterious foreigners crammed into exotic Chinatowns, geisha girls beguiling American servicemen abroad, Charlie Chans, Fu Manchus, and the cook on 'Bonanza.'… Yet in 1965, a young actor named Mako believed Asians did exist in this country, and he spent his life proving it." As a result of Mako's efforts, audiences flocked to plays by Hwang himself, such as M. Butterfly and other works by Asian American authors.
Raised by Grandparents in Japan
Mako was born Makoto Iwamatsu in Kobe, Japan, on December 10, 1933. When Mako was five, his parents moved to New York City to study art, but with relations between the United States and Japan deteriorating, Mako was left with his grandparents in Japan. Unlike the majority of Japanese in the United States, Mako's parents, because of their New York City location, escaped imprisonment in the internment camps set up in the Western states during World War II, and they worked for the U.S. government Office of War Information. They were later granted U.S. residency, and Mako came to New York to join them in 1949. Moving from devastated postwar Japan to New York, he was amazed and disoriented by the contrasts between wealth and poverty in America. At first he aimed toward the former, giving up his Japanese ways. But his father scolded him. "You don't know the assets and legacy you were born with," his father said, as Mako recalled to Patrick Pacheco of the Los Angeles Times. "You're a fool if you let them erode."
Mako enrolled at New York's Pratt Institute to study architecture, but he found his true vocation when a friend asked him for help designing a set for a children's play. Mako began spending time around actors and theater students. "That's when the trouble began," he was quoted as saying by Jocelyn B. Stewart in the Los Angeles Times. "I was out of class so much that I lost my deferment." Drafted into the U.S. Army, he served for two years in Korea, visiting Japan on leaves and reestablishing his connections with his native culture.
When he was discharged, Mako settled in Los Angeles, California, where his parents had moved in the meantime. Using funds he was paid under the Servicemen's Readjustment Act, known as the G.I. Bill, he enrolled in theater classes at the Pasadena Community Playhouse, an important theater education institution in the Los Angeles area. He married dancer, choreographer, and actress Shizuko Hoshi, and the pair raised two daughters, Sala and Mimosa. With little acting experience and few role models to follow, Mako lacked confidence in his skills. But the classes at the Pasadena Playhouse were competitive, with students being cut from the program after each quarter-year term. As Mako continued to make the cut, he became more confident and more committed to the idea of an acting career. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1956.
After he completed the program in Pasadena, Mako went to New York for two years and took classes in so-called "Method" acting, the technique of having an actor immerse himself or herself in the emotions being portrayed. His teacher was Nola Chilton, whom he credited in a 1986 interview with Janice Arkatov of the Los Angeles Times as "the foundation I have now as an actor and director." He paid his way during this training by working as a cab driver and produce market assistant, telling Arkatov that "all the things I did in those days gave me a 'file' on the various characters I had to work on." Finally he returned to Los Angeles and tried to break into the acting profession in Hollywood. He faced long odds, for many serious Asian roles at the time were still played by Western-born actors. The few roles open to Mako were written in a stilted, stereotyped dialect that hardly resembled the actual speech of Asian Americans.
Landed Series of McHale's Navy Roles
Starting out in his career, however, Mako took what roles he could get. His first television role came in an episode of McHale's Navy in 1962, and he appeared in seven episodes of the show, in various roles, over the next three seasons. For decades, to his dismay, he remained identified with those roles. "I go into a young film director's office these days and he says, 'Hey man, I know who you are. I grew up watching McHale's Navy,'" Mako told Pacheco. "And I think, 'Oh boy, here we go again.'" Mako also had roles in such popular series as I Dream of Jeannie, I Spy, and Burke's Law.
Frustrated with these roles and with the lack of serious acting opportunities for Asian Americans generally, Mako and a group of like-minded friends founded the East West Players in 1965. It was the first Asian-American theatrical organization in existence. Star Trek actor George Takei lent the group financial support during its financially precarious early years, which saw its inaugural production, Rashomon, mounted in a church basement in 1966. David Henry Hwang's mother served as piano accompanist during the company's early years. Later the organization prospered, moving to a storefront on Santa Monica Boulevard and then to a 240-seat theater in Los Angeles's Union Center for the Arts.
Mako invited Hollywood director Robert Wise to attend that first production, and the director agreed. That led to Mako's casting as Po-han in Wise's epic film The Sand Pebbles, set in China in 1926. The role was still a typically subservient one (and portrayed a Chinese, rather than Japanese, character), although Mako's character did win a boxing match against an American sailor at one point. More important, Mako virtually remade the role with his performance, which added multiple dimensions to the character and made him a sympathetic figure integrally involved in the action. Mako was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor, and he won a Golden Globe for his performance. Takei, as quoted by Stewart, pointed to the performance as a turning point in the depiction of Asian Americans on film. Other actors, Takei said, "did what they were told to do: giggle here, shuffle over there, bow, and go out. [Mako] was one of the early truly trained actors who was able to take stock roles, roles seen many times before, and make an individual a live and vibrant character."
Mako continued as a linchpin of the East West Players until his departure from the company over artistic disagreements in 1989. He acted in plays, directed them, and even wrote several, including There's No Place Like a Tired Ghost (1972) and Christmas in Camp (written with Dom Magwili in 1981). The company moved beyond contemporary Asian-American plays, mounting productions of works by Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov, Bertolt Brecht, Henrik Ibsen, Federico Garcia Lorca, and other Western playwrights from whose productions Asian Americans had long been excluded. "Ninety-nine percent of us are born and raised here," he told Arkatov, referring to the company of actors at East West, "so sometimes we feel a lot closer to Western than Eastern culture. We do those plays to show that we, too, can accommodate the work, give audiences a chance to see us in untraditional roles."
Appeared on Broadway
Publicity from The Sand Pebbles also propelled Mako to a new variety of film and television roles. He appeared in several episodes of the hit Korean war comedy-drama M*A*S*H in the 1970s, and in other successful series such as Love, American Style, Hawaii, Five-O, and The Incredible Hulk. His film roles included Walt Disney Studios' The Ugly Dachshund, and Fools (1970), in which he played a psychiatrist. Mako's biggest role in the 1970s, however, was in a field in which he had no training at all: the Broadway musical. In 1976 he was signed to play the Reciter in Stephen Sondheim's musical Pacific Overtures, which featured an all-Japanese cast.
The role was a difficult one, with Mako's Reciter character both commenting on and taking part in the action. He had to sing rapid rhymes reminiscent of the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan, such as "The man has come with letters from Her Majesty Victoria, as well as little gifts from Britain's various emporia." At one point, struggling with the tough opening number, "The Advantages of Floating in the Middle of the Sea," Mako offered to turn the role over to another actor, but the offer was refused. Mako's performance became one of the musical's strongest drawing cards, and he won a Tony nomination for his performance.
Among general moviegoers, Mako was perhaps best known for his major role as Akiro the Wizard in Conan the Barbarian (1982), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and its sequel Conan the Destroyer (1984). But he worked consistently in films in the 1980s and 1990s, keeping up his theatrical activities on the side. Mako made one film, Chinmoku (Silence), in Japan in 1972 but never returned. He returned to Broadway in 1992 in the play Shimada, which took as its theme the then-front-burner issue of Japanese domination of world business. Between 1980 and 2000 he generally made one or more series television appearances each year. After the break from East West he returned to the company in 2001 to direct the Frank Chin play The Year of the Dragon.
In 1994 Mako received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but the depth of his contributions to American dramatic arts remained underappreciated, and toward the end of his life he felt that, despite the fact that Asian roles in films had progressed from subservient characters to gangsters and the like, stereotyping was still flourishing. Suffering from cancer of the esophagus, he continued to work. He had a small role in the epic Memoirs of a Geisha (2005). Mako provided a voice in several animated films, and at the time of his death he had completed a vocal track for the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, slated for release in 2007. He died on July 21, 2006, in Somis, California, outside of Los Angeles. "Mako's life," wrote Hwang, "touched that of every Asian American theater artist, whether he or she knew him or not; when he passed away on July 21, we all lost a colleague, a friend, and an ardently supportive father."
Notable Asian Americans, Gale, 1995.
Independent (Los Angeles, California), July 25, 2006.
Los Angeles Times, April 3, 1986; April 19, 1992; September 27, 1992; July 23, 2006; July 29, 2006.
New York Times, July 25, 2006.
Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey), July 23, 2006.
Times (London, England), July 25, 2006.
Variety, July 24, 2006; July 31, 2006.
"Mako," All Movie Guide, http://www.allmovie.com (December 21, 2006).
Born Makoto Iwamatsu, December 10, 1933, in Kobe, Japan; died of esophageal cancer, July 21, 2006, in Somis, CA. Actor. The Japanese actor known simply as Mako enjoyed a long career in Hollywood that began at a time when he and other Asian performers were relegated to stock characters. One of just a handful of Japanese performers ever to be nominated for an Academy Award, he was instrumental in pushing through Hollywood's invisible barriers that kept Asian-American actors in stereotype-reinforcing roles. One of his final performances came as the commander of the imperial Japanese navy in the 2001 action flick Pearl Harbor.
The future actor was born Makoto Iwamatsu in the Japanese city of Kobe in 1933. His parents went to the United States to study art in New York City while he stayed behind with his grandparents. America's entry into World War II came when he was seven years old, when Japanese planes bombed a U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December of 1941, and with the two countries officially at war Mako was unable to join his parents for several more years. Finally, at the age of 15 he was reunited with them in New York City.
As a young man, Mako planned to become an architect, and enrolled at the Pratt Institute of New York City. When a fellow student asked him to help design a set for a play, he found himself drawn to theater and immersed himself in it to the point where his architecture studies suffered, and he lost his student draft deferment. He spent two years in the U.S. Army, and upon returning to civilian life settled in California and began studying drama at the renowned Pasadena Playhouse. As an Asian American, however, he was usually cast in stock characters in the first film and television jobs he landed. His most prominent work was in the popular television sitcom McHale's Navy in the early 1960s, in which he played various Japanese soldier or officer parts in the World War II-set series.
Mako's breakout part came in The Sand Pebbles, a 1966 movie that starred Steve McQueen as an engineer on an American gunboat stationed in China during the 1920s. Mako was cast as Po-han, an engine-room worker on board the ship, and though his character was deferential to McQueen's character and the other sailors, "most reviewers hailed the performance, saying it transcended the role's stereotypical confines," noted the New York Times' Margalit Fox. One pivotal scene involved a fistfight in which Po-han triumphs over his much larger American opponent, and it helped him earn a nomination for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor.
Reacting to the dearth of solid roles for Asian-heritage thespians, Mako co-founded the East West Players in 1965, the first Asian-American theater company. He served as its artistic director until 1989, and continued to work in Hollywood, amassing more than 140 screen and television credits over his long career. Some of his best-known roles came in the hit television series M*A*S*H in the 1970s, and as Akiro the wizard in the Conan the Barbarian movies of the 1980s that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. Broadway audiences saw him in Pacific Overtures, the 1976 musical from Stephen Sondheim that retold the story of the establishment of diplomatic and trade ties between the United States and Japan in the 1850s. He was the play's Reciter, or narrator, but also appeared in other parts and was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Actor in a Musical for it.
Other roles for Mako included the 1997 Brad Pitt movie Seven Years in Tibet, 2001's Pearl Harbor, and Memoirs of a Geisha in 2005. He also served as the voice of Uncle Iroh in Avatar: The Last Airbender, the animated series from Nickelodeon. He died at the age of 72 from esophageal cancer on July 21, 2006, at his home in Somis, California. Survivors include his wife, Shizuko Hoshi, a dancer, choreographer and actress, and their two daughters, Sala and Mimosa. His East West Players company had become a respected training ground for scores of Asian-American performers. "We've been fighting against stereotypes from Day One at East West," he told the Los Angeles Times in 1986, according to his obituary writer, Jocelyn Y. Stewart. "That's the reason we formed: to combat that, and to show we are capable of more than just fulfilling the stereotypes—waiter, laundryman, gardener, martial artist, villain."
Chicago Tribune, July 25, 2006, sec. 2, p. 9; Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2006, p. B16; New York Times, July 25, 2006, p. A20; Times (London), July 25, 2006, p. 55; Washington Post, July 24, 2006, p. B5.
(Mako Iwamatsu, Jimmy Sakuyama)
Full name, Makoto Iwamatsu; born December 10, 1933, in Kobe, Japan; died of esophageal cancer, July 21, 2006, in Somis, CA. Actor, director, and playwright. Mako immigrated to the United States in 1949 and began his acting career while serving in the U.S. Army in the early 1950s. He was a founding member of the East West Players, an Asian-American theatre group based in Los Angeles, and served as its artistic director from its inception in 1965 until 1989. With the East West Players Mako appeared in such productions as Pacific Overtures (for which he earned an Antoinette Perry Award nomination for best actor in a musical), Hokusai Sketchbooks, and Station J. Mako wrote plays, including There's No Place Like a Tired Ghost, and also directed them, including a production of The Fisher King, which he codirected with his wife, actress and director Shizuko Hoshi. In 1967 Mako garnered Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for best supporting actor in his first film role—as Po-Han in The Sand Pebbles. Mako appeared in dozens of films during his long acting career, including The Great Bank Robbbery, Conan the Barbarian, Robocop 3, and Memoirs of a Geisha. He also worked in television and starred in such television movies as Farewell to Manzanar, Kung Fu: The Movie, and Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes. A familiar face in episodic television, Mako guest starred in many series, including McHale's Navy, M*A*S*H, Wonder Woman, and Walker, Texas Ranger. Throughout his career Mako fought for better roles for Asian Americans.
Hyphen Magazine, July 24, 2006.
Los Angeles Times, July 23, 2006.
New York Times, July 25, 2006.
Playbill, July 24, 2006.
San Francisco Chronicle, July 24, 2006.
MAKO (Hung. Makó ), town in S. Hungary. Jews were first authorized to settle in Mako in 1740. In 1748 they founded a ḥevra kaddisha in the town, and the community was probably organized at that time. A Jewish school was also opened. The first synagogue was erected in 1814, and the magnificent great synagogue was built in 1914. After 1868 the community was split into two factions and in 1870 the Orthodox built a synagogue. There were 158 Jews in Mako in 1773, earning their livelihood mainly from trade, especially in onions which grew abundantly in the surroundings. There were also Jewish craftsmen. From 154 in 1824 the Jewish population increased to 1,200 by 1858. The Jews numbered 1,928 in 1918, 2,380 in 1920, and 1,125 in 1941. The first rabbi of the town was Jacob Selig (1773). Others were Solomon *Ullman (1826–1863), who maintained a yeshivah, and Enoch Fischer (1864–1896), the father of the poet Emil *Makai. The last rabbis were the historian A. *Kecskeméti (1898–1944) and M. Vorhand (Orthodox). The renowned journalist and publisher Joseph *Pulitzer was born in this town. After the German invasion (March 19, 1944) a ghetto was set up for the 3,000 Jews of Mako and the surrounding area. All were transferred to Szeged at the end of June and deported to *Auschwitz, with some going to Austria; only around 600 returned to reestablish a community in 1949. The synagogue was demolished in the late 1960s. In 1970 there were 98 Jews in Mako.
Á. Kecskeméti, A csanádmegyei zsidók története (1929); A. Scheiber, in: mhj, 12 (1969), 5–18.