Entertainment & Arts

James Shigeta, Die Hard co-star, dies aged 81

James Shigeta
James Shigeta starred in Flower Drum Song in 1961

James Shigeta, one of the first prominent Asian-American actors in the early 1960s who memorably appeared in 1988 film Die Hard, has died aged 81.

The actor made his debut in 1959 as a detective in The Crimson Kimono and starred in Rodgers and Hammerstein adaptation Flower Drum Song in 1961.

His career later focused on the small screen, appearing in dozens of shows.

He is probably best remembered for his role in Die Hard as Mr Takagi, the ill-fated boss of the Nakatomi corporation.

After refusing to give up the security code to his company's bank vault, the executive met a grisly end at the hands of villain Hans Gruber, played by Alan Rickman.

Golden Globe success

Born in Hawaii, Shigeta studied acting at New York University before joining the Marines where he entertained troops during the Korean War.

He became a singing star in Japan before making his big screen debut, a talent which helped land him the lead role of Wang Ta in Flower Drum Song.

The actor won the Golden Globe for most promising newcomer in 1960, sharing it with George Hamilton, Troy Donahue and Barry Coe.

Other films he appeared in the early 1960's included Walk Like a Dragon opposite Jack Lord and Cry for Happy alongside Glenn Ford.

After bit parts in TV series such as I Spy, Hawaii Five-O, Mission: Impossible and Ironside, Shigeta secured a recurring role as a doctor on drama Medical Center from 1969 to 1972.

He later appeared mainly as a character actor in shows including Kung Fu, Little House on the Prairie, Airwolf, Magnum PI and Dragnet, as well as the 1982 TV movie The Renegades opposite Patrick Swayze.

The actor also provided voices for animated characters, working on Disney film Mulan and TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender.

He last appeared on screen in 2009 indie film The People I've Slept With.

Publicist Jeffrey Leavitt announced Shigeta died in Los Angeles, but did not give the cause of death.