Yaphet Kotto, known for his roles in movies like “Alien” and “Live and Let Die” as well as the television series “Homicide: Life on the Street,” died Monday at age 81.
Kotto was born on Nov. 15, 1939, in Harlem, New York. He was interested in acting from a young age, and his aunt operated a dance academy, according to IMDb.
He first set foot on stage in 1958 in “Othello,” and appeared in other Broadway performances. From there, he moved into film, where he notably played the villain Dr. Kananga, also known as Mr. Big, in “Live and Let Die” in 1973.
In 1979, he landed the role of the engineer Parker in “Alien” and called the movie’s script “one of the best … I have ever read.”
Yaphet Kotto, an actor known for his performances in “Alien,” the James Bond film “Live and Let Die” and the television series “Homicide: Life on the Street,” has died. He was 81 https://t.co/tUUGfzffj2 pic.twitter.com/qXrYtnJYM4
— Variety (@Variety) March 16, 2021
“All of the scenes were challenging, particularly when you know you have to act against sets that were huge,” he said, according to IMDb. “The special effects determined where you could walk. Then you ask yourself how can you survive in acting against a monster.
“Will you be remembered? Ridley Scott was cool. He gave us a ninety-page outline detailing each of our characters and then he disappeared behind the camera. That’s how he directs; he operates his own camera. The Alien script was tight. It was one of the best scripts I have ever read, so there was very little improve.”
Kotto was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award after portraying the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 1976 television film “Raid on Entebbe,” according to The New York Times.
The actor made a name for himself and was even in the running to play Jean Luc Picard in the 1987 “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and Lando Calrissian in the “Star Wars” films, though he backed out of both.
He played a senior detective on “Homicide: Life on the Street” from 1993 to 1999 and was in dozens of films and movies, including in long-running series like “Law & Order.”
Kotto was living in the Philippines at the time of his death, and his agent Ryan Goldhar confirmed to Variety that the actor had died. Kotto’s wife posted a tribute to him on Facebook on Monday night.
“I’m saddened and still in shocked of the passing of my husband Yaphet of 24 years,” she wrote. “He died last night around 10:30pm Philippine time.
“This is a very painfall moment for me to inform you all fans, friends and family of my husband.
“We still have a lot of plans honey that we discussed you have a lot of interviews waiting and you have movie offers like G.I. Joe and the movie of Tom Cruise and others … 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 bestfriend,my rock.I love you and you will always be in my heart.Till we meet again!”
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