The American star Richard Kiel, most known for his role as the steel-toothed villain Jaws in the two James Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979) died in a hospital in Fresno yesterday at the age of 74.
A spokeswoman for Saint Agnes Medical Centre had confirmed Kiel’s death, but had not revealed the cause. He had originally been admitted to hospital for breaking his leg, but it had not been confirmed whether his death is related.
The 7ft 2in Kiel appeared in the sports comedy Happy Gilmore alongside Adam Sandler in 1996, and voiced the villain Vlad in 2010’s animated film Tangled.
He had been a guest on BBC’s Radio 4 programme The Reunion, alongside Roger Moore who played 007 at the times and Bond actress Britt Ekland, recalling their roles in the spy series.
During the radio programme, Kiel had confessed that he had thought that playing Jaws would appear “over the top”.
“I was very put off by the description of the character and I thought, well, they don’t really need an actor, he’s more a monster part. So I tried to change that view of it…I said if I were to play the part, I want to give the character some human characteristics, like perseverance, frustration.”
Many stepped in to give tribute to the late actor, including Kiel’s own agent, Steve Stevens:
“He was a very loyal friend and client for over 35 years, a terrific husband and father, and was not only a giant actor but a giant man.”
Sandro Monetti, director at Bafta in Los Angeles and a former showbiz reporter described Kiel as having “teeth of steel, but a heart of gold”.
He recalled seeing the actor at Bond conventions: “It was like seeing kids meeting Santa Claus. Everyone has got such joyous memories of Jaws, and he had time for everybody.”
Kiel was first born in Detroit, Michigan with the hormonal condition acromegaly, which may have contributed to his height. He had begun his career as the alien Kanamit in Twilight Zone. From there he went on other TV roles, including playing opposite William Shatner in the 1970s TV sitcom Barbary Coast, as the lead character of Eli Weaver in the movie Giant of the Thunder Mountain; and also spoofing his most well-known role as “Famous big guy with silver teeth” in the movie version of Inspector Gadget.