His first television appearance came in 1982 and was followed in 1985 by a small role in the hit crossover film Tampopo. But it was Watanabe's role as samurai leader Date Masamune in the TV series "Dokugan-ryu Masamune" (1987) that earned him a huge following in Japan.
After surviving a bout of leukemia, Watanabe slowly worked his way back into acting, an endeavor that culminated in an Oscar-nominated performance in The Last Samurai (2003) opposite Tom Cruise. He followed his first American triumph with a role as a villain in Batman Begins (2005).
In this mindbending sci-fi thriller, Dom Cobb runs an espionage business built around entering the subconscious of his targets to steal their thoughts. A new, complex job promises great rewards, but Cobb's personal demons threaten the operation.