Back in 2003, Kuriyama Chiaki (栗山千明) made her Hollywood debut starring in Kill Bill, the highly violent and action-packed movie directed by Quentin Tarantino. Though her role was minor, she left us all speechless with her stunning performance and made Gogo Yubari one of our favorite movie villains. To some Western viewers, she might look like any Asian actress, but Chiaki was already a well-known model and actress in Japan before her breakthrough role in Kill Bill. Ever wondered how our lovely actress is doing nowadays? Let me first give you a recap about Kuriyama Chiaki many years after bringing Gogo Yubari to life, to see what she has accomplished until now.
Born in 1984 in Tsuchiura, Ibaraki, Kuriyama Chiaki already has a long career despite her young age. In 1989, she began working as a child model and appeared in many photo books, especially in best-seller Shinwa-Shojo. She also worked with Japanese girl fashion magazines as Nicola and Pichi Lemon for a short time.
The Japanese public started to recognize her as an actress after her participation in two horror movies: Shikoku (1999) and Ju-on (2000). Thanks to her performance as Chigusa Takako in controversial movie Battle Royale (2000), Chiaki was finally discovered by Quentin Tarantino for his next movie project. Following that major turning point, the actress has never stopped her acting activities, making her one of the most prolific actresses in the Land of the Rising Sun, with over 30 roles in Japanese drama and 30 more on the big screen. Kuriyama Chiaki has successfully stayed popular in the movie industry for over two decades and has built herself a solid career.
Even though Kuriyama Chiaki was a model turned actress, she has made it very clear that she doesn’t only possess beauty, but acting talent as well. She is beautiful but has a strength behind it. She can appear very cute, but at the same time, you can’t shake off the impression that she is far from fragile and has the capacity to break you down. That was how she shaped her character in Battle Royale, a pretty but loner high school girl who could kill in order to protect herself. That role was the reason that Tarantino chose her for his infamous Gogo Yubari, who is also a high school girl but actually enjoys killing people.
In The Great Yokai War directed by Miike Takashi her supernatural character Agi is also a villain, but as she acts in the name of blind love for the antagonist and in the end, spectators feel pity for her more than hate for her evil acts. Together with other roles in horror movies like Shikoku (1999) or Exte: Hair extensions (2007), the young actress has proved that she can play a great diversity of characters. She confessed that the more offbeat the character appeared in the story, the more she likes to play it. Indeed, she believes that this kind of role is a good challenge for her as an actress, and help her improving her acting skills. Let’s take a look at some of her amazing transformations on screen…
…as Mizushima Yuko in Exte: Hair extensions (2007), directed by Sion Sono
…as Gogo Yubari in Kill Bill (2003), directed by Quentin Tarantino
…as Kusunoki Fumi in Battle League Horumo (2009), directed by Motoki Katsuhide
…as Shibasaki Asako in Library Wars movies (2013, 2015) directed by Sato Shinsuke
Besides her acting activities, Kuriyama Chiaki makes an appearance in many commercials as well. Internationally well-known fashion company UNIQLO has asked her to promote their Bra Top product in 2009. In 2014, she was in a promotional video of Puyo Puyo Quest, a game developed by Sega Networks, in which she dressed up in various extravagant outfits.
If you are curious about her other interesting getups, you can watch the full commercial on Youtube.
It seems that Kuriyama Chiaki wants to expand her career, not only in the film industry but also in the music industry. In 2010, she released a CD single named Ryusei no Namide on DefStar Records. This song was chosen as the first ending theme of the Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn anime series. Her two other singles, Kanosei Girl and Cold Finger Girl, was used in two anime series as the opening theme, Yorinuki Gintama San and Level E. Her debut album, finally, came out in 2011 under the name CIRCUS. In her new role as Chiaki the singer, she appears as outstanding as she always has been, and maybe even more.
In more than 20 years, Kuriyama Chiaki never ceases to amaze her fans by her remarkable acting, her elegant fashion style and her non-stop metamorphoses in many artistic fields. In 2014 at the age of 29 she was the winner of the new Rising Star of Asia Award at the Hong Kong International Film Festival. It was a good reward for her perseverance throughout two decades. Chiaki then humbly insisted that she still has a long way to go.
Although she has accomplished many goals so far in her homeland, she doesn’t hide her dream to star in another Hollywood movie again. For her, the biggest obstacle is the language barrier, which she hopes to overcome one day. We truly wish her all of the best in the future, because a serious and creative artist like Chiaki who has always been moving forward ever since her first step in the show business deserves a fulfilling happy ending, don’t you agree?