Delicately beautiful Japanese actress Youki Kudoh skyrocketed from obscurity to national fame in her native Japan in the early '80s. Talent agents discovered the then-12-year-old girl on the streets of Tokyo and recruited her for a singing career; seemingly within no time, she garnered a massive fan base as a pop sensation -- her country's equivalent of Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson. By her 22nd birthday, Kudoh had 11 albums to her credit and segued into acting on an international scale, alternating between arthouse-style independent films, such as the Jim Jarmusch-directed U.S. production Mystery Train (1989), and buttered-popcorn fare, such as the 1997 Australian action thriller Heaven's Burning.
Kudoh achieved much greater recognition in the States when she landed the covetable lead role of Hatsue Imada, the Japanese-American lover of reporter Ishmael Chambers (Ethan Hawke) in Scott Hicks' meditation on WWII-era Japanese internment, Snow Falling on Cedars (1999). After scattered minor roles over the next several years, Kudoh followed up her impressive, multi-layered portrayal for Hicks with a performance as Pumpkin in Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), director Rob Marshall's follow-up to the 2002 blockbuster Chicago. In 2006, Kudoh hearkened back to A-list Tinseltown fare as the female lead in the action-filled Jackie Chan/Chris Tucker buddy comedy Rush Hour 3. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi