LOS ANGELES: Richard Kiel, who played the towering, steel-toothed baddie “Jaws” in two James Bond movies, died aged 74, a hospital spokeswoman said.
The 7-foot-2 inch (2.18-meter) actor, who made a career playing giants and villains, passed away Wednesday in the Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno, spokeswoman Kelley Sanchez told AFP.
He would have been 75 on Saturday.
Besides Jaws, Kiel’s appeared opposite Adam Sandler in the 1996 comedy “Happy Gilmore” and he also voiced Vlad in Disney’s Oscar-nominated animated film “Tangled”.
But he hit the bigtime with his 007 performances: Kiel was an immediate hit with filmgoers in “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977) fighting 007 star Roger Moore, and returned two years later in “Moonraker”.
“I had convinced the producer that Jaws should have some characteristics that were human to counteract the steel teeth,” he said, cited by the Hollywood Reporter in a 2009 interview.
“I guess I overdid it — I became too likable to kill off!”
On the small screen Kiel played an alien in “The Twilight Zone” in 1959 and appeared in horror TV series “Kolchak: The Night Stalker” in the 1970s.
Born in Detroit, Kiel — who had worked as a nightclub bouncer and cemetery plot salesman before getting into show business — also appeared in TV shows including “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and “The Wild Wild West”.
Other big-screen credits included playing a hitman alongside Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in 1976 comedy “Silver Streak,” as well as “The Longest Yard” (1974) with Burt Reynolds.
In 1978 he appeared in “Force 10 From Navarone” and in 1985 he worked with Clint Eastwood on “Pale Rider”.
He also took a turn behind the camera, co-writing and producing the 1991 family movie “The Giant of Thunder Mountain”, in which he also starred.
He reprised his Jaws character in 1999 action adventure movie “Inspector Gadget” with Matthew Broderick.
In 2002 he published his autobiography, appropriately called “Making it Big in the Movies”.
The TMZ celebrity news website, which first reported his death, said Kiel had been in hospital in Fresno since breaking his leg last week. The hospital spokeswoman could not confirm the detail.
While Jaws defined his career, Kiel said he did not consider it his greatest achievement, according to Entertainment Weekly.
“My best part would probably be Captain Drazak in ‘Force 10 from Navarone’. A lot of people don’t even know it’s me because I had a big beard and a great costume,” it quoted him as saying.
“As Jaws, I start off as a bad guy and turn into a good guy whereas in this I appear to be a good guy and turn into a really nasty guy.”