Actor Yaphet Kotto, who rose to fame in the 1970s fighting James Bond in ‘Live and Let Die’ and an extraterrestrial stowaway in ‘Alien’, has died, his agent told AFP. He was 81.
In a statement Monday on Facebook, wife Sinahon Thessa described her late husband as a “legend”.
“You played a villain on some of your movies but for me you’re a real hero and to a lot of people also,” she said.
Agent Ryan Goldhar confirmed his passing in an email to AFP. He did not share the cause of death.
“I am still processing his passing, and I know he will be missed,” he said.
Born in New York to a Cameroonian immigrant father and a US Army nurse, Kotto’s debut as a professional actor was in an all-Black stage performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’ in Harlem in 1960.
Kotto drew plaudits for roles as the first Black Bond villain — dictator Dr Kananga — in 1973’s ‘Live and Let Die’, and an Emmy nomination for playing real-life Ugandan strongman Idi Amin in the TV movie ‘Raid on Entebbe’.
He then took on a villainous xenomorph as ship engineer Dennis Parker in Ridley Scott’s claustrophobic sci-fi horror film ‘Alien’ in 1979, and fought alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1987’s dystopian thriller ‘Running Man’.
At the height of his fame, he turned down the role of Captain Picard in ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ — a decision he later said he regretted.
Kotto’s later years saw him play Lieutenant Al Giardello in the gritty TV police procedural ‘Homicide: Life on the Street’.
He returned to the ‘Alien’ franchise in 2014, voicing his character Parker in the survival horror video game ‘Alien: Isolation’.
Married three times and father to six children, Kotto claimed to be related to Queen Elizabeth II - naming his 1997 biography “The Royalty” as a tribute to his royal pedigree.