Richard Kiel, whose towering height and distinctive baritone voice defined his nearly 50-year career in television and films, most notably as the steely toothed James Bond villain Jaws, died Wednesday afternoon in Fresno, Calif. at the age of 74, TMZ reports. The actor had been hospitalized after breaking his leg earlier in the week, but it is still unclear if that was related to his death.
Kiel’s rep did not immediately respond to EW’s request for comment.
The Detroit-born Kiel, who grew to be 7 feet 1.5 inches, worked various odd jobs, including cemetery plot salesman and nightclub bouncer, before making his television debut at age 21 in the NBC Western Laramie. His roles were always at least partially defined by his extraordinary physicality, including in the schlocky 1962 B-movie Eegah, which got a bit of a cult boost after being featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, where Kiel played a giant caveman who falls for a California party girl he accidentally encounters in the desert. Kiel was also one of the top choices to play The Incredible Hulk—a role that would end up going to Lou Ferrigno after the producers decided they needed someone more muscular (and after Kiel had already filmed some of the pilot).
Kiel continued to score a number of memorable, if sometimes bit, roles including stints as villains in shows such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Wild Wild West and in films like The Longest Yard and Silver Streak. But Kiel would ultimately be defined by his role as Jaws, the metal-mouthed James Bond villain of the Roger Moore-era who first appeared in 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me and was apparently so popular that they had him reprise his role in 1979’s Moonraker. Those famous teeth caused Kiel immense discomfort, though. “They were nauseating,” he told The Guardian in 2009. “They were up in the roof of your mouth and gave you a gagging effect – you felt like you were going to be sick. It did add to the stoic part of my character – to keep from throwing up.”
READ FULL STORY