Isn’t it logical to think that there would come a day when we would introduce a Siren that used to be a champion bodybuilder? And would you be surprised to learn that she’s a petite, exquisitely beautiful… oriental lady? Ah, not the kind of person you would’ve thought fitted the description, right? Let’s meet another fascinating performer, still considered a top stuntwoman these days. Probably you have seen more movies with Michiko Nishiwaki in the latter capacity.
Born November 21, 1957, in Funabashi, Chiba, Japan, Michiko absolutely didn’t even think about bodybuilding in her youth. She was on her way to live the traditional destiny of a young Japanese woman, i.e. typical non-demanding job, finding a husband, raise a family, etc. As she was working at the Mitsubishi Bank and waiting for the date of an arranged marriage, Michiko’s dad died of a heart attack (in fact, the gentleman passed away in her arms). This tragedy became a turning point for the young girl, who decided to have her own say in the planning of her future.
Michiko’s brother used to train with barbells and became a power lifting champion in Japan, so she began her own training, to the point that she could easily perform 100 continuous push-ups. She became champion in her own right, and when friends suggested bodybuilding, Michiko was just shocked, as she couldn’t picture herself wearing a tiny bikini before judges. It just wasn’t proper behaviour for a woman in Japanese society then. But so intrigued was she that she tried it anyway, to eventually become a real success, as not many Japanese girls could display such a physique. Michiko won three successive championship and at some point, could lift 250 pounds. She soon opened three women’s fitness clubs, with her brother as co-manager.
One thing led to another, as she shot some television commercials, participated in variety shows and sporting events. Who would refuse anything to the country’s reigning female bodybuilding champion, who also eventually earned a black belt in karate? Of course, all this lead to movie work for Golden Harvest studio in Hong Kong, alongside Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung, for My Lucky Stars 2. The picture contains a memorable fight involving Michiko and action star Sibelle Hu. Uncomfortable were the many retakes… and also the fact that Michiko couldn’t speak Cantonese, a language that she still struggles with. Still, the sight of her coming out of a kimono to show her imposing silhouette remains a classic scene of Hong Kong action cinema.
Thus, Michiko played more bad girls and femmes fatales, sometimes without a word of dialogue. Oddly, she was often not able to see a complete script before shooting, for fear by the producers of having their ideas stolen. Tired of being so quickly typecast, Michiko decided to return to Japan, but soon changed her mind when hearing that Jackie Chan wanted her for In the Line of Duty 3, in which she played a sexy and psychotic Red Army terrorist. Her character’s name: Michiko Nishiwaki!
The next year saw the release of God of Gamblers starring Chow Yun-fat, one of Hong Kong’s biggest box-office hit of all time. Present in the unforgettable opening scene, we can admire once again Michiko removing a kimono to display quite an intriguing tattoo. This movie started a never-ending trend of gambling pictures.
1990 saw the release of Magic Cop, with a different kind of role for Michiko, here playing an evil witch facing off against Lam Ching Ying, more known for his participation in the Mr. Vampire series. For a change, our actress had to endure heavy makeup to make her look like a nasty demon. Two years later, Michiko starred alongside american martial arts legend Cynthia Rothrock in City Cops.
Avenging Quartet proposed a most impressive female cast, with Moon Lee, Yukari Oshima, Cynthia Khan and Michiko. Then came some Category III movies (a rating signifying more sex and violence) like Witchcraft vs. Curse and Whore and Policewoman. Michiko next met Oliver Stone, who suggested that she move to Hollywood. Legend says that she actually lifted him up in the air to show her strenght! At that point, she didn’t even speak English.
After just missing being cast in Mortal Kombat, Michiko decided to become a stuntwoman on American movies, as not many parts were written for Asian actresses. She doubled for Lucy Liu and Kelly Hu, contributing to an astonishing amount of popular hits like Red Corner, Lethal Weapon 4, Charlie’s Angels, Kill Bill, Vol. I, Rush Hour 2 and The Scorpion King and even found time to act in a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode. She recently played a geisha sold to a brothel of the 1880s in Ghost Rock.
Aren’t you glad to discover more worthy female talent? You owe it to yourself to begin a journey discovering the work of Michiko Nishiwaki, a most fascinating and beautiful performer. Let’s hope to see her in more significant parts in the future.
1983 City on Fire 1985 My Lucky Stars 2 1986 Dimensional Warrior Spielban 1987 Young Lady Detectives: Heart Beat! 1988 The Outlaws; In the Line of Duty 3; 1989 Live Hard; Widow Warriors; God of Gamblers 1990 Magic Cop; Princess Madam; Angel Terminators; Free Fighter 1991 Witchcraft vs Curse 1992 Passionate Killing in a Dream; The Mighty Gambler; City Cops; Big Circle Blues; Avenging Quartet 1993 Naked Huntress; Whore and the Policewoman 1998 Lethal Weapon 4 1999 Man on the Moon 2004 Ghost Rock