Actor Richard Kiel, who was Bond villain Jaws, dies at age 74

Richard Kiel, who played the towering, steel-toothed baddie Jaws in two James Bond movies, died on Wednesday aged 74, a hospital spokesman said. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Richard Kiel, who played the towering, steel-toothed baddie Jaws in two James Bond movies, died on Wednesday aged 74, a hospital spokesman said. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (Agence France-Presse) - Richard Kiel, who played the towering, steel-toothed baddie Jaws in two James Bond movies, died on Wednesday aged 74, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The 2.18-m actor, who made a career playing giants and villains, died in the Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno, spokesman Kelley Sanchez said. He would have been 75 on Saturday.

Kiel hit the  big time with his 007 performances: He was an immediate hit with filmgoers in 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me, fighting 007 star Roger Moore, and returned two years later in Moonraker. "I had convinced the producer that Jaws should have some characteristics that were human to counteract the steel teeth," he was cited as saying by the Hollywood Reporter in a 2009 interview.

"I guess I overdid it - I became too likable to kill off!"

Besides playing Jaws, Kiel appeared opposite Adam Sandler in the 1996 comedy Happy Gilmore and he voiced Vlad in Disney's Oscar-nominated 2010 animated film Tangled.

Born in Detroit, Kiel had worked as a nightclub bouncer and cemetery plot salesman before getting into show business.

On the small screen, Kiel played an alien in The Twilight Zone in 1959 and appeared in Kolchak: The Night Stalker in the 1970s.

He also appeared in TV shows including The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Wild Wild West. Other big-screen credits included Silver Streak (1976), with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, as well as The Longest Yard (1974), with Burt Reynolds.

In 1978, he appeared in Force 10 From Navarone and in 1985 he worked with Clint Eastwood on Pale Rider. He also took a turn behind the camera, co-writing and producing the 1991 family movie The Giant Of Thunder Mountain, in which he also starred.

He reprised his character Jaws in the 1999 action adventure movie Inspector Gadget with Matthew Broderick.

In 2002 he published his autobiography, appropriately called Making It Big In The Movies. TMZ celebrity news website, which first reported his death, said he had been in hospital in Fresno since breaking his leg last week. The hospital spokesman could not confirm the detail.

While Jaws defined his career, Kiel said he did not consider it his greatest achievement, according to Entertainment Weekly.

"My best part would probably be Captain Drazak in Force 10 From Navarone. A lot of people don't even know it's me because I had a big beard and a great costume," it quoted him as saying.

"As Jaws, I start off as a bad guy and turn into a good guy whereas in this I appear to be a good guy and turn into a really nasty guy."