Yaphet Kotto, an actor known for his performances in “Alien,” the James Bond film “Live and Let Die” and the television series “Homicide: Life on the Street,” has died, his agent Ryan Goldhar confirmed to Variety. He was 81.
Kotto’s wife, Tessie Sinahon, first posted about Kotto’s death on Facebook Monday night.
“I’m saddened and still in shocked of the passing of my husband Yaphet of 24 years. He died last night around 10:30pm Philippine time,” she wrote. “…You played a villain on some of your movies but for me you’re a real hero and to a lot of people also. A good man, a good father, a good husband and a decent human being, very rare to find. One of the best actor in Hollywood a Legend. Rest in Peace Honey, I’m gonna miss you everyday, my bestfriend, my rock.”
In 1973’s “Live and Let Die,” Kotto pulled double-duty portraying the corrupt Caribbean dictator Dr. Kananga as well as his drug pushing alter ego Mr. Big. Described in the novel as a monstrously obese kingpin with yellow eyes, gray skin and a head twice the size of a normal man, Kotto’s dapper version of the character dispensed with the physical grotesqueries and added a charismatic dose of stylish villainy.
Kotto also famously played technician Dennis Parker in 1979’s “Alien” and William Laughlin alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1987 action film “The Running Man.” He had a strong career in television as well, playing Al Giardello in the NBC series “Homicide: Life on the Street” from 1993 to 1999.
Kotto was born in New York City on Nov. 15, 1939, and began studying acting at the age of 16 at the Actors Mobile Theater Studio. By 19, he made his professional theater debut in “Othello,” and continued on to perform on Broadway in “The Great White Hope.” Kotto’s first few film projects included “Nothing But a Man” in 1964 and “The Thomas Crown Affair” in 1968. In 1969, Kotto held a guest-starring role as Marine Lance Corporal on “Hawaii Five-O.”
After landing the role in “Live and Let Die,” Kotto also nabbed roles in 1974’s “Truck Turner” and 1978’s “Blue Collar” as Smokey. Following his starring turn in “Alien,” Kotto went on to hold a supporting role as Richard “Dickie” Coombes in “Brubaker” in 1980 and starred alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1987 action film “The Running Man.”
Kotto also made a strong impression in 1989’s “Midnight Run” as Special Agent Alonzo Mosely.
Kotto’s other TV roles include an appearance on “The A-Team” in 1983, “For Love and Honor,” “Murder She Wrote,” “Death Valley Days” and “Law & Order.”
One of Kotto’s last and longest roles was that of Al Giardello on “Homicide: Life on the Street,” for which he also holds several scriptwriting credits. He also starred in “Homicide: The Movie” in 2000, and most recently voiced Parker in the “Alien: Isolation” video game.
He is survived by his wife and six children.