The actor Richard Kiel, best-remembered for his role as Jaws in two of the Roger Moore James Bond movies, has died at the age of 74.
Kiel’s acromegaly, a hormonal condition that led to his extraordinary height (7′ 2″), gave him the edge when casting for large characters. Prior to acting, he had used his height to his advantage as a night club bouncer. His 2002 autobiography, Making it Big in the Movies, punned his distinctive appearance.
Yet the role he will be best-remembered for, the steel-toothed Jaws in the James Bond franchise, was a part Kiel imbued with humanity, and it’s that that makes Jaws so memorable. Initially an out-and-out baddie in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) – remember the cable car wire that he chomps through? – Jaws’ second appearance was markedly different. In Moonraker (1979), Kiel’s character redeemed himself. He fell in love with Dolly (Blanche Ravalec) and later teamed up with Bond. Jaws is possibly the only villainous henchman in the Bond movies you’re glad to see survive – as he did at the end of The Spy Who Loved Me – and Kiel deserves the credit for that.
Kiel returned to the James Bond world in 2004 to recreate his much-loved character by lending his voice to a computer game.
His co-star Roger Moore has taken to Twitter to send a moving tweet, remembering his friend: “I am totally distraught to learn of my dear friend Richard Kiel’s passing. We were on a radio programme together just a week ago. Distraught.” Moore is referring to a Radio 4 reunion that was recorded a few weeks ago.
Prior to the Bond movies, Kiel already had a substantial body of work behind him. He had appeared in hit cult classics such as The Phantom, The Twilight Zone and The Man From UNCLE. He even parodied his character of Jaws for the 1999 Matthew Broderick vehicle Inspector Gadget (based on the popular children’s cartoon).
Kiel was a beloved figure on the convention circuit, and was known for having a lot of time and respect for fans, whom he was always willing to meet. He is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren.