The Actress Who Never Was or The Mysterious Case of Aya Takanashi: Recognize the Name? Probably not. Most movie resources only show one film on her resume. You will be hard-pressed to find anything at all about her besides this one film. [Edit: Some additional facts have been discovered by people more willing to do research since I wrote this in the fall of 2009. These facts were not uncovered by me. So thanks are due to the readers. Find these in the comments section. Thank you.]
There are lots of listings which present her bare-bones mini biography. Aya was born in Chiba, Japan, in 1963. That would make her about 49 right now. She acted in a featured role in a movie made in 1992 when she was just 29. She’s 5′ 2 1/2″ inches tall. Now you have what has been called her bio in a trusted web source called IMDB – The Internet Movie Data Base.
Rotten Tomatoes which is another very good movie resource lists her in one movie but shows 0 Photos and 0 Trailers for her.
Not only that, I was unable to find even a single image of her on the Web. It’s like she never existed except for being cast as Tom Selleck’s love interest in the 1992 film, Mr. Baseball.
While the movie Mr. Baseball was never going to win any awards for acting for Tom Selleck, Dennis Haysbert, Ken Takakura, or Ms Aya Takanashi, or even for Director Fred Schepisi, it could be called, at minimum, an entertaining baseball movie.
Selleck’s career peaked after 162 episodes of Magnum, P.I. which ran from 1980 to 1988. This movie followed four years later. Dennis Haysbert is best known for his role as President Palmer on the 24 Series and as the spokesman for The Good Hands people, All State Insurance.
Ken Takakura was a big movie star in Japan for many years. His first credited role was way back in 1956. Now 78 years old, Takakura again came to international notice in Ridley Scott’s Black Rain in 1989. At that time, Takakura had already made more than 125 movies. He has long been known as the Japanese Clint Eastwood.
But what of Aya Takanashi? She has only this one film to her credit. I could not find any pictures of her on Google. Not one of the main movie resources had anything more than scant info on her.
Okay, why was I even thinking of her?
Well I wasn’t. But last week the New York Yankees won the 2009 World Series of baseball. The MVP of the World Series was the Yankees’ Japanese star Hideki Matsui. Before joining the Yankees in 2003, Matsui had a lengthy baseball career in Japan. Known for his awesome hitting, in Japan, Matsui was called Godzilla.
And that made me think of Selleck’s movie, Mr. Baseball because the tagline for that film was, “He’s the biggest thing to hit Japan since Godzilla!“
So I started to read some old reviews of the film, and then I decided to see what I could find on Aya Takanashi.
What I turned up about her was next to nothing. She did not have a career in the movies. There were no pictures of her to be found on the internet. I wondered why.
Needless to say – I have no real answers. All that I was able to find was unsubstantiated rumors and suppositions. Some say that the Japanese were offended by the film. At least in the beginning of the film, the Japanese were portrayed as being a humorless bunch, that were tied into following the concept of team harmony even when it was detrimental to the team. Of course generalizations about any country’s citizens are frivolous and should not be taken seriously.
Others have said that the Japanese were offended by the fact that Takanashi’s character, Hiroko, slept with Selleck’s character, Jack Elliot, without the formality of a courtship and marriage. Or even worse, that she portrayed a Japanese woman who had a sexual relationship with a foreigner (gaijin).
Obviously I am not telling anyone that Japanese should or should not be offended. I will reach no conclusions whatsoever on whether this sports movie was or was not offensive.
But either way, Aya Takenashi never worked again in either Hollywood, or in Japanese movies or Japanese television. Her career began and ended with just this one single movie. Was she black-listed? Did the powers that be decide to never employ her again for this ‘transgression’?
I have no answers to those questions. Like many of you who remember the film, I am mystified as to why we never saw Aya Takanashi again. Unless Mr. Schepisi, Mr. Selleck, or Aya Takanashi herself offers us an answer, we will all remain in the dark as to what really happened to this actress’s career.
There’s not much I can do about it, is there? But I can do one thing – this post will provide some images of Aya Takanashi from her role as Hiroko Uchiyama which up to now, have not been readily available anywhere.
EDIT: September 2nd 2010: – According to reader Scott who has provided links in his comments (see below), Aya worked in the 90′s in a number of Japanese roles. So she’s not so much of a mystery women after all. Unless there was another actress back then with the same name. Thank you Scott.