Yaphet Kotto, Mr. Big in Bond’s ‘Live and Let Die,’ Dead at 81
Yaphet Kotto, best known for playing villain Kananga/Mr. Big in the 1973 James Bond movie Live and Let Die, has died at age 81. The actor's wife, Tessie Sinahon, announced his death on Facebook, and Kotto's agent confirmed the news to Variety. His cause of death was not immediately available.
“You played a villain on some of your movies, but for me you’re a real hero and to a lot of people also,” Sinahon wrote. “A good man, a good father, a good husband and a decent human being, very rare to find.”
Kotto was born in New York City on Nov. 15, 1939, and started studying acting at age 16 at the Actors Mobile Theater Studio. He made his theatrical debut in a performance of Othello at age 19 before landing a handful of film roles in the ’60s, including Nothing But a Man (1964) and The Thomas Crown Affair (1968). By the ’70s, Kotto was working consistently in the movie industry.
Following his famous role in Live and Let Die, the eighth Bond film, he appeared in a wide range of projects, from action (1974’s Truck Turner) to crime-drama (1978’s Blue Collar) to sci-fi horror (1979’s Alien).
The actor’s credits continued steadily through the mid-’90s, including the 1987 action film The Running Man (opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger) and the buddy action comedy Midnight Run.
Kotto also landed one-off TV roles on shows like The Wire and Law & Order, and then starred on the groundbreaking NBC cop series Homicide: Life on the Street for seven seasons. Kotto most recently voiced his character, Parker, in the 2014 video game Alien: Isolation.
Numerous filmmakers have paid tribute to Kotto on Twitter following the news of his death.
Director Edgar Wright tweeted, “RIP Yaphet Kotto, a brilliant magnetic presence, bringing gravitas and naturalism to deep space or underground Bond lair. So memorable as Parker in Alien, Kananga (Mr. Big) in Live and Let Die, Smokey James in Blue Collar or in the simmering funny rage of Midnight Run’s Alonzo Mosely.” Director Ava DuVernay wrote, “Yaphet Kotto. My mom’s favorite. He’s one of those actors who deserved more than the parts he got. But he took those parts and made them wonderful all the same. A star. Rest well, sir.”
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