He played Jaws, the towering bad guy with the steel teeth, in 'The Spy Who Loved Me' and 'Moonraker'
Richard Kiel, the 7-foot-2 actor who played Jaws, the James Bond villain with the teeth of steel, died Wednesday. He was 74.
Kiel broke his leg last week and died in St. Agnes Medical Center in Fresno, Calif., according to several media reports.
Kiel's signature character appeared in the Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979). The actor also played an alien in the famed 1962 Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man," a hitman in the Gene Wilder-Richard Pryor comedy Silver Streak (1976) and Adam Sandler's boss in the classic golf comedy Happy Gilmore (1996).
The Detroit native also stood tall as bad guys in such TV shows as The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Wild, Wild West and Kolchak: The Night Stalker and auditioned for the role as the mean green guy in the CBS series The Incredible Hulk, a role that went to Lou Ferrigno.
The Bond character of Jaws was inspired by author Ian Fleming’s description of a crook who went by the name of Horror and had steel-capped teeth in the 1962 novel The Spy Who Loved Me.
In the Spy Who Loved Me film — which was released two years after Steven Spielberg's Jaws — Kiel's invincible giant battles a shark in a shark tank, has a construction scaffold collapse on him and drives a car off a cliff into someone’s roof — and lives to tell about it, of course. For Moonraker, Jaws survives a fall from an airplane and a high-speed tramway crash. Both Bond films starred Roger Moore as 007.
“I had convinced the producer that Jaws should have some characteristics that were human to counteract the steel teeth. I guess I overdid it — I became too likable to kill off!” he said in a 2009 interview. “So they brought me back, and Moonraker was the most successful box office success for the Bond series for a long, long time.”
According to a special-edition DVD of The Spy Who Loved Me, Jaws’ chrome teeth were extremely uncomfortable and could only be worn for about 35 seconds at a time.
Kiel also appeared with his famous choppers alongside Harold Sakata as Oddjob during the Academy Awards in 1982 as Sheena Easton was performing her Oscar-nominated Bond song “For Your Eyes Only,” and he was a “Famous Big Guy With Silver Teeth” in the live-action feature Inspector Gadget (1999).
Jaws was spoofed in Mel Brooks’ High Anxiety (1977), which featured a hired killer named Braces (Rudy De Luca).
Kiel worked as a nightclub bouncer and cemetery plot salesman before landing his first acting gig as a character called Bare Knuckles in the NBC series Klondike.
He later could be spotted (gosh, he was impossible to miss) in the films The Nutty Professor (1963), The Longest Yard (1974) with Burt Reynolds, Force 10 From Navarone (1978), Cannonball Run II (1984), Pale Rider (1985) with Clint Eastwood and Think Big (1989), and he most recently had a voice role in Tangled (2010).
Kiel had a regular role as Moose Moran in the 1975-76 ABC series Barbary Coast and appeared in guest spots on The Rifleman, Lassie, Honey West, The Monkees, I Spy, and It Takes a Thief.