Yaphet Kotto death: James Bond villain passes away at 81

Yaphet Kotto as Dr. Kananga
Yaphet Kotto played Dr. Kananga (aka Mr Big) in the 1973 James Bond movie Live and Let Die. Pic credit: United Artists

Yaphet Kotto, the actor best known for playing Dr. Kananga in the James Bond film, Live and Let Die, has died at 81.

Kotto’s wife, Sinahon Thessa, announced his death on Facebook. The actor died on Monday in the Philippines, according to Sinahon’s Facebook post.

“I’m saddened and still in shocked of the passing of my husband Yaphet of 24 years,” she wrote. “He died last night around 10:30 p.m. Philippine time.”

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“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 continued. “A good man, a good father, a good husband and a decent human being, very rare to find. One of the best actors in Hollywood, a Legend. Rest in Peace Honey, I’m gonna miss you everyday, my best friend, my rock.”

She went on to reveal that Kotto still had plans for his acting career at the time he died, including “offers like G.I. Joe and the movie of Tom Cruise and others.”

He was also planning to release a book and pursue other personal projects.

Tributes on social media

Tributes have been pouring in on social media since news of Kotto’s death broke.

Hollywood stars who paid tribute included the filmmaker Ava DuVernay and director Edgar Wright.

Monsters and Critics reported in February that Saved By the Bell actor Dustin Diamond died at 44 after battling cancer.

Resident Evil 8 actress, Jeanette Maus, also passed away in January at 39.

Yaphet Kotto bio

Yaphet Frederick Kotto was born in Harlem, New York City, in 1939. His father was an immigrant from Cameroon and his mom was a US Army nurse of Panamanian and West Indian descent.

He trained at Actors Mobile Theater Studio and started his career in theater before transitioning to TV and movie roles.

Kotto is best known for playing the burly villain Dr. Kananga (aka Mr. Big), alongside Roger Moore in the 1973 James Bond movie, Live and Let Die.

He played other memorable movie roles, including Chief Engineer Parker in Alien. He portrayed the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 1977 TV movie, Raid on Entebbe. He also appeared in The Running Man, alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, and in Midnight Run with Robert De Niro.

Kotto played roles in dozens of TV shows, including Hawaii Five-O, Fantasy Island, The A-Team, For Love and Honor, Murder She Wrote, Homicide: Life on the Street, and Law & Order.

He received an Emmy nomination for portraying President Idi Amin in Raid on Entebbe.

He reportedly turned down major roles, such as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars franchise film The Empire Strikes Back, because he was afraid of being typecast after his role as Engineer Dennis Parker in Ridley Scott’s Alien.

He also claimed that he turned down the role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, but he regretted his decision.

Kotto married three times. His first wife was a German immigrant, Rita Ingrid Dittman. They married in 1962, had three children, and divorced in 1975.

He married Toni Pettyjohn in 1975. They divorced in 1989 after having three children together.

He is survived by his third wife, Sinahon Thessa, and six children.

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