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James Bond Villain and Alien Star Was 81

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The great Yaphet Kotto has died at the age of 81 according to his wife, Tessie Sinahon, who revealed the sad news Monday night on Facebook.

“You played a villain [in] some of your movies but for me, you’re a real hero and to a lot of people also. A good man, a good father, a good husband, and a decent human being, very rare to find … Rest in Peace Honey, I’m gonna miss you every day, my best friend, my rock. I love you and you will always be in my heart. Till we meet again,” wrote Sinahon.

I have long admired Kotto, who I first became aware of as a young fan of Homicide: Life on the Street. I remember staying home from more than a few middle school dances on Friday nights to watch the acclaimed NBC series, in which Kotto played the formidable Lieutenant Al Giardello, aka Gee, the only person who could keep TV’s best detective, Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher), in check.

I quickly sought out more of Kotto’s work, and eventually, I came to love his performances as Parker in Ridley Scott‘s 1979 classic Alien, and as FBI Agent Alonzo Mosely in Midnight Run, which saw him chasing Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin across the country.

yaphet-kotto-dies-alien-parker
Image via 20th Century Fox

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Kotto also played the stylish James Bond villain Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big in 1973’s Live and Let Die, which pit him against Roger Moore‘s 007. His other major feature credits include The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Across 110th Street (1972), Paul Schrader‘s crime drama Blue Collar (1978), the Robert Redford prison movie Brubaker (1980), and Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s 1987 action film The Running Man, based on the novel by Stephen King. According to legend, Kotto also turned down the role of Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back.

Kotto earned an Emmy nomination for playing dictator Idi Amin in the 1977 TV movie Raid on Entebbe, and he was also nominated for four NAACP Image Awards for his work on Homicide, which ran from 1993 to 1999. He displayed tremendous gravitas on that series and I’m bummed that my DVD box set is still in Los Angeles, because the show isn’t available to stream and I’d love to watch a few of his best episodes right about now.

Last year, possibly sensing this sad news, I reached out to Kotto via his agent, Ryan Goldhar, for an interview timed to Black History Month, though I would’ve happily interviewed him whenever. Unfortunately, Kotto was living in the Phillippines, and could only conduct the interview over Facebook Messenger. Since I prefer to do phone interviews rather than text, I told Kotto’s agent that I’d prefer to wait until he had access to a phone, and now I’m kicking myself for not taking the opportunity to talk to the man — a fellow Jew! — while I had the chance. After all, none of us are promised tomorrow, so I think I’ve learned a valuable lesson from that missed connection

Kotto is survived by his wife and six children, and his passing inspired Twitter tributes from numerous industry luminaries, including Edgar Wright, David Simon and Ava DuVernay, the latter of whom described him as “one of those actors who deserved more than the parts he got. But he took those parts and made them wonderful all the same.”

Indeed, he did. Rest in power, sir, for you will be greatly missed.

KEEP READING: ‘Alien’ TV Series in the Works at FX From Noah Hawley and Ridley Scott

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