Yaphet Kotto, star of James Bond and 'Alien', dies aged 81

·Senior Editor
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Watch: Alien and Live and Let Die actor Yaphet Kotto dies aged 81

Yaphet Kotto, the US actor known for playing Bond villain Dr Kananga in Live and Let Die and Parker in 1979's Alien, has died aged 81.

His wife Tessie Sinahon confirmed the star had died in a post on his Facebook page overnight, calling him "a real hero" and a "decent human being".

"I'm saddened and still in shocked of the passing of my husband Yaphet of 24 years. He died last night around 10:30pm Philippine time," she wrote.

"You played a villain on 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.

Actors Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto, Julius W.Harris and actress Jane Seymour, on the set of
Yaphet Kotto as Dr Kananga, centre, in a scene from Live And Let Die. (Corbis via Getty Images)

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"One of the best actor in Hollywood a Legend. Rest in Peace Honey, I'm gonna miss you everyday, my best friend, my rock. I love you and you will always be in my heart.Till we meet again!"

Rabbi Joel Braude, left, makes a toast during the wedding ceremony for actor Yaphet Kotto, right, and his bride Tessie Sinahon in Baltimore, Md., Sunday, July, 12, 1998. Kotto plays the imposing Lt. Al Giardello pn NBC's police drama
Yaphet Kotto and Tessie Sinahon got married in Baltimore in 1998. (AP)

Viola Davis, who yesterday received an Oscar nomination for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom was among the Hollywood stars to pay tribute to Kotto online, saying 'your presence and talent were undeniable and magnetic'.

Director Edgar Wright paid tribute to the actor on Twitter praising his 'magnetic presence' and 'gravitas'.

Selma director Ava Duvernay also paid tribute saying he 'deserved more than the parts he got. But he took those parts and made them wonderful all the same'.

Born 1939 in New York City, Kotto began studying acting at the age of 16, and made his professional debut in Othello aged 19.

He made his film debut in 1963, and went on to have a supporting role in 1968's The Thomas Crown Affair opposite Steve McQueen.

In 1973, he landed the dual role of Mr Big/Dr Kananga in Roger Moore's debut 007 film Live and Let Die.

Roger Moore paid tribute to his co-star in his book The 007 Diaries: Filming Live and Let Die saying Kotto "showed himself to be an actor of extraordinary depth and power".

Actors Roger Moore, Yaphet Kotto, Julius W.Harris, Geoffrey Holder, Earl Jolly Brown and actress Jane Seymour, on the set of
The cast of Live And Let Die. (Corbis via Getty Images)

Discussing a scene together, Moore added: "Yaphet was magnificent, pulling all sorts of tricks out of his bag that he hadn't shown in rehearsal, and I was so open-mouthed at his performance that I did what I dreaded I would do and blew my tag line."

He later said that he was prevented from promoting the film. "They were afraid the public would react negatively to a black villain so they didn’t play my character up. That hurt me a lot, man,” he told Big Issue in 2015.

“I went through a lot of goddamn emotional hell because they were afraid people would be angry that a black guy was not being Sidney Poitier. I was the opposite of everything he created.”

Promotional headshot of actor Yaphet Kotto, as he appears in the movie 'Alien', 1979. (Photo by Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images)
Yaphet Kotto in the movie Alien. (Stanley Bielecki Movie Collection/Getty Images)

In 1979 he played Parker in Ridley Scott's sci-fi horror Alien, a role he later reprised for the 2014 video game Alien: Isolation.

"Parker was going to be bigger than life," he later told SyFy. "And I thought that Parker had to be, because one look at Ridley's sets on Alien, the hugeness of those sets, as big as this room, I said this character is going to get lost in this and so he's got to be big. Bombastic and big."

He was reportedly offered the role of Lando Calrissian for Star Wars: Episode IV - The Empire Strikes Back, but turned it down.

HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET -- Pictured: (back, l-r) Callie Thorne as Det. Laura Ballard, Peter Gerety as Det. Stuart Gharty, Toni Lewis as Det. Terri Stivers, (center, l-r) Kyle Secor as Det. Tim Bayliss, Clark Johnson as Det. Meldrick Lewis, Clark Johnson as Det. Meldrick Lewis, Michael Michele as Det. Rene Sheppard, (front, l-r) Clayton LeBouef as Col. George Barnfather, Yaphet Kotto as Lt. Al Giardello, Jon Seda
as Det. Paul Falsone -- Photo by: NBCU Photo Bank
Yaphet Kotto, centre, with the cast of Homicide: Life on the Streets. (NBCU Photo Bank)

He appeared opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1987's Running Man after passing a role in Predator, which he called 'predictable'.

Kotto was also considered for the role of Jean-Luc Picard for Star Trek: The Next Generation, but lost out to Patrick Stewart.

In later years he starred in NBC's Homicide: Life of the Street as Lieutenant Al Giardello for seven seasons and a feature film.

His wife's Facebook post revealed that Kotto had been recently offered roles in a G.I. Joe movie, and a Tom Cruise film.

Kotto married Rita Ingrid Dittman in 1959. They had three children together before divorcing in 1976. He had three children with his second wife Toni Pettyjohn before divorcing in 1989. He married Tessie Sinahon in 1998.

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