Veteran character actor Richard Kiel made a first impression in a big way. It’s easy to do that when you’re 7 feet 2 inches tall. His first acting role was as the giant Kanamit alien in the Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man,” and he continued to work steadily for many years. If you don’t know Richard Kiel from his time as an alien, then you know him as one of James Bond’s most famous opponents. In two films, The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, Jaws was the notable force squaring off against, then siding with, Roger Moore’s take on James Bond. In 1996, he played a hilariously menacing role in Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore. Nobody got more out of his height than Richard Kiel, who passed away at age 74.
When first approached for the role of Jaws, Kiel was resistant to playing just another monster part, so he decided to humanize Jaws by giving him some real-life feelings, turning him from just a brute into a giant person. This approach resonated with fans, and Kiel took the cable-chewing giant with metal teeth from a henchman slated to die to one of the most popular characters in Bond history. He returned in Moonraker, got the girl, became one of Bond’s allies, and generally redeemed himself (and is one of the best parts about Moonraker, if we’re honest). In recent years, Kiel has made his living on the fan convention circuit, popping up wherever Bond fans might congregate. Shortly before his death at Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno, Kiel did BBC4 Radio’s The Reunion alongside his Bond companions Roger Moore and Britt Ekland.
“The original script had me being killed by the shark,” Kiel said. “They filmed that and they also filmed an ending where I survive and pop out of the ocean. That was one of the big moments for me, watching the blue-collar screening of the movie, The Spy Who Loved Me, and having the reaction of the crowd at the theater when Jaws popped out of the ocean, survived and swam away. There were hoots and howling, applause. I couldn’t believe it.”
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