Richard Kiel, the 74-year-old actor best known for playing James Bond villain Jaws, was in very poor health when he last spoke with his 007 co-star Sir Roger Moore over the weekend.
Moore says the actor, who sadly died overnight, sounded off-colour when they’d chatted during a Radio 4 James Bond reunion interview on Sunday. Listen to our interview below.
"He was talking from Fresno, and we were in a studio in London – Barbara Broccoli, Michael Wilson, and John Glen the director,” Moore told Yahoo this morning.
“[Richard] sounded very, very weak. We were told that the line was bad from Fresno and that he would sound a bit strange.
"But he’d had a hell of a job getting into the studio and getting out of his car. What we didn’t know was that he’d had surgery that week, that he’d broken his leg. He’d fallen and that weight and height that he was, falling was a very serious thing.”
Moore paid tribute to actor who appeared in two Bond films alongside him calling him “a big man with an even bigger heart”.
He told us the news that the 74-year-old actor has passed away was completely unexpected.
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"It came as a hell of shock this morning as I had an email from my assistant Gareth Owen,” explained the seven-time 007 star, "He’d heard an hour before and I’m still in a state of not quite believing it."
The cause of death has yet to be confirmed with the hospital citing client confidentiality.
Kiel’s character, the 7ft 2in hulking brute Jaws, was one of the few henchmen to ever make more that one Bond appearance, first in 1977’s ’The Spy Who Loved Me’ then in 1979’s ‘Moonraker’. Sir Roger credits his Detroit-born co-star’s performance as the reason for his popularity.
“[The producers] wanted [Richard] to see the film with an ordinary audience, and he went in America and he said there was great whooping and hollering when his head came up out of the sea [at the end of ’The Spy Who Loved Me’] and I think there was that reaction everywhere. He was the villain everyone wanted to see return.
"He was a well-loved character and he was very well-defined.”
Kiel appeared in over 70 films and television programmes with his huge size, the result of a hormonal condition, ensuring he often played henchmen or villains. After a car accident in 1992, Kiel relied on a cane or a mobility scooter to get around, but he carried on acting with one of most recent roles coming in Disney’s ‘Tangled’.
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"He was very very good [as an actor]. We didn’t have any dialogue scenes [together] because he didn’t speak until the last line of the movie in the second film [‘Moonraker’], but his reactions and everything else, he was always perfect.” adds Sir Roger.
"He was a gentle giant and the only way to sum him up was that he was a big man with an even bigger heart.”
Sir Roger Moore’s latest autobiography, ‘Last Man Standing: Tales From Tinseltown’ on Michael O’Mara Books, is in shops now.
See Richard talking about his favourite Bond actor in our interview from 2012 below…
Image credit: Press Association/Rex Features/Wenn