Richard Kiel, the 7-foot-2 actor best known for portraying the James Bond villain Jaws, never wanted to be typecast as a dimwitted character just because of his enormous stature.
While his towering physique may have made him intimidating, he was not dumb, he told the Los Angeles Times during a 1978 interview.
“If I wanted to be a trial attorney, I could have been. If I wanted to be a real estate magnate, I could have been that too,” he said.
Instead, Kiel chose to become one of the most identifiable character actors in cinema history, as well as a writer and producer.
Kiel died Wednesday at St. Agnes Medical Center in Fresno, Kelley Sanchez, director of communications, confirmed to the Los Angeles Times. He was 74.
A cause of the death was not released.
Kiel, who has credits in more than 65 TV shows and 20 movies, was best known for playing the hulking, metal-mouthed Bond villain in “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker.”
Kiel said he had multiple opportunities to cash in on the Jaws image, including a stunt bite on Marie Osmond’s neck for a “Donny and Marie Show” skit, but he said in the 1978 interview that he passed on them all.
“I want to stay away from things that will typecast me,” he said.
A Michigan native, Kiel said in 1978 he had no ambitions to be an actor during his youth, and he worked random jobs as a repairman and bouncer until he found his way into the 1962 film “Eegah,” in which he played a caveman.
The film was a financial success and Kiel quickly learned there was a calling for large actors in Hollywood, he said in 1978.
Kiel was also well known for playing Adam Sandler’s boss in the ‘90s comedy “Happy Gilmore.”
In a statement posted to Facebook, the Kiel family said in part: “Though most people knew of him through his screen persona, those who were close to him knew what a kind and generous soul he was. His family was the most important thing in his life and we are happy that his last days were spent surrounded by family and close friends. Though his passing was somewhat unexpected, his health had been declining in recent years. It is nice to think that he can, once again, stand tall over us all.”
A complete obituary will follow at latimes.com/obits.
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