Richard Kiel 1939-2014

Cult character actor dies age 74

Richard Kiel 1939-2014

by James White |
Published on


The cinematic world may forever know him as an imposing, steel cap-toothed villain, but in real life he was a man who embraced his cult status and enjoyed a healthy career as a character actor. Richard Kiel, James Bond’s Jaws, has died at the age of 74.

Kiel was born in Detroit, and years before his time spent menacing Roger Moore with fake gnashers, the acting bug bit. He kicked off his career on the stage, supplementing his income by working as a nightclub bouncer and as a maths instructor at night school in Burbank.

In the early years of his career, Kiel worked in a swathe of popular TV series, making his debut in 1960s Western series Klondike. He gained early popularity playing the Kanamit alien in the iconic Twilight zone episode To Serve Man, and from there appeared in a range of shows such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Lassie, I Dream Of Jeannie, The Monkees, The Wild Wild West, I Spy, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Starsky And Hutch and The Fall Guy.

Film-wise, he got his start in shonky, so-bad-they’re-fun B-movies including The Phantom Planet and Eegah. He did have a more noticeable role in The Longest Yard, but it was thanks to an appearance alongside William Shatner in Western series Barbary Coast that the Eon film team thought he’d work as Jaws in 1977’s** The Spy Who Loved M****e**. Suffering for his art with metallic dentures he could only wear for minutes at a time, Kiel was so memorable in the role that the plan to kill Jaws off at the end of the film was scrapped when a test screening audience reacted positively to him. He was brought back for 1979’s Moonraker, where he ended up changing his ways, falling in love and speaking his one line “Well, here’s to us…”

Though an idea to have him return once again in For Your Eyes Only were dropped when the decision was made to try to ground the franchise in something approaching reality once again, Kiel’s career continued on a healthy path with work on Force 10 From Navaron****e, Pale Rider, Happy Gilmore and, most recently, the voice of Vlad in Disney’s Tangled.

Kiel suffered a bad head injury in 1992, which affected his balance but not his spirit. He co-authored several books, and wrote his autobiography, titled Making It Big In The Movies. Here’s to you, sir: you will be missed.

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