Early Life & Childhood
Ken was born Kennosuke Yamamura, on January 21, 1986, in Osaka, Japan. Not much is known about his family or childhood.
Ken studied drama at ‘Flinders University’ in Adelaide, South Australia. He chose to study in Australia because he felt a lot of Australian actors, such as Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, and Nicole Kidman, had made it big in Hollywood.
After graduating from the university, he started looking for work in Japan. However, he did not want to miss a chance to appear in a Hollywood blockbuster.
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Ken started working in low-budget independent films as he patiently waited and worked hard for his big Hollywood break. His first known performance was for the 2013 Australian science-fiction movie ‘Double Happiness Uranium,’ in which he played ‘Mitch.’ The movie was funded by ‘Flinders University’ and ‘Helpmann Academy,’ the former being Ken’s alma mater. The movie was directed by Cole Larson.
His big Hollywood break came in the 2013 superhero film ‘The Wolverine.’ The blockbuster, featuring ‘Marvel’s popular character ‘Wolverine,’ became the fifth highest-grossing movie of the ‘X-Men’ series. Ken played the young ‘‘Ichirō Yashida,’ aka ‘Silver Samurai,’ a role that he shared with veteran actor Haruhiko Yamanouchi, who played the old ‘Yashida.’ The movie smashed the box-office in its opening weekend, making it Ken’s first blockbuster.
Luck seemed to be on Ken’s side in 2014, as he bagged another big Hollywood opportunity. He was part of the remake of ‘Godzilla,’ starring Bryan Cranston of ‘Breaking Bad’ fame and Elizabeth Olsen.
However, the road to the role was not easy for him. He seemed a little young for the role of ‘Takashi’ in Godzilla. Thus, he decided to connect with casting director Yôko Narahashi, who had given him his big break in ‘The Wolverine.’ He reached out to her and was offered an audition for the role. He even wrote letters to Yôko, asking for the audition and considering the option of flying down to Tokyo from Osaka to meet her.
Being a powerful Japanese personality in Hollywood, Yoko agreed to meet and help him. She offered him the audition and the rest, as they say, is history. She stated that Ken was bright and energetic.
‘Godzilla’ was released on May 16, 2014 as the 30th film of the franchise. The film also starred Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, and David Strathairn, apart from Olsen and Cranston. The movie’s opening weekend became the fifth-highest of the year, grossing $93.2 million for the entire weekend. Although ‘Takashi’ was an additional role, it gave a much-needed boost to Ken’s career.
The same year, he played ‘Jiro Fujioka’ in the Japanese TV drama ‘Massan.’ The series ran from 2014 to 2015 and starred American actor Charlotte Kate Fox and Japanese actor Tetsuji Tamayama in lead roles.
In 2015, he was part of the Japanese TV series ‘Kaze no Tôge: Ginkan no Fu,’ in which he played a recurring role along with Masatoshi Nakamura, Kyôhei Shibata, Nanami Sakuraba, and Takehiro Hira. The series lasted for six episodes.
He then appeared in the fantasy/science-fiction film ‘The Hybrid: Nue no ko.’ His character in the film, ‘Kyogoku,’ is a magazine editor who is ordered to capture “nue,” a mysterious monster.
In 2016, he made an appearance in an episode of the British science-fiction anthology series ‘Black Mirror,’ titled ‘Playtest.’ The show, which started in 2011, ran for four seasons and was renewed for its fifth season in 2018. In 2017, one of its episodes, titled ‘San Junipero,’ won the ‘Primetime Emmy Awards’ for ‘Outstanding Television Movie’ and ‘Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special’ for Brooker.
In 2017, he appeared in the historical “jidaigeki” Japanese film ‘Sekigahara,’ starring Junichi Okada. Ken played a character named ‘Shima Nobukatsu.’ The period film narrated the story of the Battle of Sekigahara that had lasted for six hours and had brought an end to the ‘Warring States’ era in Japan.