A Hollywood actor, who rose to fame in the 1970s as the first black Bond villain, has been remembered as “a force of nature in everything” following his death aged 81.
Yaphet Kotto was best known for his role as dictator Dr Kananga in 1973’s James Bond film Live and Let Die, starring Roger Moore as the famous agent 007.
His “brilliant magnetic presence”, however, has graced the big screen in a series of highly acclaimed classics with many dubbing Mr Kotto as “one of the best actors of his generation”.
We are very sorry to learn that Yaphet Kotto, who played Dr. Kananga in Live And Let Die, has passed away at the age of 81. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/wssYWvy6VI
— James Bond (@007) March 16, 2021
Mr Kotto drew plaudits for his portrayal of crew member Dennis Parker in the 1979 sci-fi hit Alien, and his role of former Ugandan President Idi Amin in the film Raid on Entebbe.
The latter secured the actor his first Emmy nomination for outstanding performance in a comedy or drama special in 1977.
Other highlights of his stellar career included roles in TV series Law and Order, and one of Mr Kotto’s longest roles as Lieutenant Al Giardello in Homicide: Life on the Street, for which he also worked as a scriptwriter.
The actor died on Monday in the Philippines.
His widow Sinahon Thessa shared the news on social media, saying this is a “very painful” moment for all fans, friends and family.
She wrote: “I’m saddened and still in shock of the passing of my husband Yaphet of 24 years.”
“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.”
“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.”
Born in New York to a Cameroonian immigrant father and a US Army nurse in 1939, Mr Kotto made his professional theatre debut in Shakespeare’s play Othello aged 19 and later performed on Broadway in The Great White Hope.
He also appeared in The Running Man opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1987 and starred in the Robert De Niro film Midnight Run the following year.
People from all walks of life – including directors, actors, journalists and writers – have paid tributes to the actor, whose “presence and talent were undeniable and magnetic”.
Yaphet Kotto. My Mom’s favorite. He’s one of those actors who deserved more than the parts he got. But he took those parts and made them wonderful all the same. A star. Rest well, sir. pic.twitter.com/BqeuVc7DSB
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) March 16, 2021
Yaphet Kotto could make every scene crackle. He was a force of nature in many roles, and certainly as Parker in ALIEN. But I also loved the more poker-faced side of him, such as Mosely in MIDNIGHT RUN, as well. A terrific actor. R.I.P. pic.twitter.com/4cngkwSpz8
— Charles de Lauzirika (@Lauzirika) March 16, 2021
Baby Driver director Edgar Wright wrote on Twitter: “RIP Yaphet Kotto, a brilliant magnetic presence, bringing gravitas & naturalism to deep space or underground Bond lair.
“So memorable as Parker in Alien, Kananga (Mr Big) in Live & Let Die, Smokey James in Blue Collar or in the simmering funny rage of Midnight Run’s Alonzo Mosely.”
Selma filmmaker Ava DuVernay wrote: “Yaphet Kotto. My Mom’s favorite. He’s one of those actors who deserved more than the parts he got.
“But he took those parts and made them wonderful all the same. A star. Rest well, sir.”
You were so memorable in every role you did. Your presence and talent were undeniable and magnetic…whether you were the villain or the hero. Rest well #YaphetKotto. God bless your wife and family. You will be missed.https://t.co/YQ7x5LM8ym
— Viola Davis (@violadavis) March 16, 2021
Author Don Winslow wrote: “Yaphet Kotto. We lost a great one tonight. Rest in Power.”
Academy award winner Viola Davis said: “You were so memorable in every role you did.
“Your presence and talent were undeniable and magnetic…whether you were the villain or the hero.
“Rest well Yaphet Kotto. God bless your wife and family. You will be missed.”