Few film stars left an impression on children of the ’60s and ’70s like that of Richard Kiel. The seven-foot-two-inch actor died yesterday at his home in Fresno, but not before contributing to some of the most popular entertainments of the twentieth century. After starring in the title role of the Mystery Science Theater-savaged Eegah (as an inexplicably long-lived caveman in love with a modern-day California girl), Kiel scored a recurring role on the proto-steampunk western The Wild, Wild West and starred in one of the very best episodes of The Twilight Zone — “To Serve Man”. After winning the title role in the TV pilot for The Incredible Hulk, Kiel left the production due to complications with the green makeup and contact lenses. But by then he’d already appeared in film hits like The Longest Yard, Silver Streak and, in his most iconic role as the James Bond baddie Jaws, in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me. Kiel won scores of fans as the silent, towering, metal-mouthed assassin. His popularity was so great that he’s the only actor to play a Bond villain who came back for an encore. Granted, his role was reduced to more or less comic relief in 1979’s Moonraker, but Kiel was still plenty of fun to watch as the immovable object to the unstoppable charm of Roger Moore’s 007. In more recent years, the gentle giant reprised his role as Jaws in the 2004 video game James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing, and won new fans with film appearances in Happy Gilmore, Inspector Gadget, and Tangled (as the voice of Vladimir).
Kiel was also a fixture at numerous science-fiction and comic-book conventions around the world. It’s worth noting that while many celebrities would charge fans for both an autograph and a photo, Kiel would, with every autograph, invite fans to pose for a free photo with him — in character as Jaws. It might seem like a little thing, but fans strapped for cash — who got to feel for just a moment that they were James Bond himself — will never forget him for his generosity. Neither will I. (You can see my pic below.) Rest easy, Richard. And thanks for making our lives a lot more fun.
Film photo credit: The International Spy Museum