- "Solitaire, your power exists to serve me. And it is mine to control. If and when the time comes, I decide that you are to lose it; I myself will take it away!"
- ― Dr. Kananga to Solitaire
Drug baron and dictator of a fictitious Caribbean island named San Monique, Dr. Kananga is loosely based on the main villain of Ian Fleming's second James Bond novel, Live and Let Die. Like his novel counterpart, Kananga adopts the alias "Mr. Big" to conduct his illicit activities, however the novel and film versions of the character are radically different to the point of being completely different people.
Dr. Kananga, operating under the alias "Mr. Big", is a business man and owner of a chain of restaurants in New York City and New Orleans called "Fillet of Soul". As Big, he is also the head of one of the most vicious street gangs in Harlem. Kananga is the de facto dictator of the fictional Caribbean island of San Monique and thus has certain diplomatic immunities in the United States easily allowing him to smuggle drugs into the country.
Kananga grows vast quantities of opium in San Monique under the protection of large camouflage nets and guarded by the mystical Baron Samedi. Using the poppies, Kananga hopes to flood the U.S. market with two tonnes of heroin distributed through his legitimate restaurants free of charge, thus forcing other drug dealers out of business. In doing so, he believes that he would double the amount of addicts, which he would be able to exploit with his new found monopoly.
Kananga attracts the attention of the Secret Intelligence Service when three british agents are killed while investigating his business. One agent (Dawes) is killed during a UN meeting, another (Hamilton) in New Orleans and the last (Baines) is murdered by Dambala, a member of Kananga's voodoo cult on San Monique.
Spied on by Bond
The MI6 assigns one of his best agents, James Bond, to investigate the tyrant and his connection with the murders. The agent 007 travels to New York, where Kananga is supposed to arrive later. However, Kananga is warned about Bond' arrival and intentions by the medium Solitaire. To get rid off Bond, Kananga sends his henchman Whisper, who shoots Charlie, the driver of Bond's car while on the highway. However, Bond manages to grab the wheel and arrives safely.
Kananga, who has left the UN and returned to the embassy, knows that he is being watched and that his office is most likely bugged. To deceive the CIA, Kananga starts playing a previously recorded tape in which he dictates a long, nationalistic letter. He and his associates then change clothes and leave the embassy through a hidden exit in his office. Thinking that Kananga is still in his office, Felix Leiter calls his friend Bond and tells him to go after Whisper instead, whose car they have located at a voodo shop nearby. Following Whisper in a parking garage, Bond is disturbed by the arrival of Kananga and his henchmen, who enter a car and leave, pursued by Bond.
Bond follows the car in a cab, unaware that Kananga's spies inform Kananga about Bond's every move. Arriving at Harlem, Bond sees Kananga's car before the Fillet of Soul restaurant and enters. The taxi driver, also a spy of Kananga, informs his boss that Bond is coming.
Meeting Bond as Mr. Big
- "Names is for tombstones, baby. You take this hunky out and waste him. Now!"
- ― Dr. Kananga as Mr. Big
007 is then brought before Kananga, who is wearing a latex mask and posing as Mr. Big. As part of his disguise, Big asks Solitaire whether Bond is the one who tailed them from uptown. Bond tries to introduce himself but Big only looks at him briefly and then tells his men to bring Bond outside and kill him. He then leaves the room.
Two of Kananga's henchmen then bring Bond in an abandoned sidealley, where Bond quickly takes them out. Another man then arrives, holding his gun at Bond but the man turns out to be a CIA agent named Harold Strutter. The both men, together with Felix Leiter, then wonder how Kananga and Mr. Big fit together. Telling the agents that Kananga is about to leave the USA and return to San Monique, Leiter sends Bond after him.
Setting another trap
- "This growing size of importance begin to disturb me, Solitaire. Even as they did with your mother before you. She had the power and lost it, became useless to me. You will not make the same mistake, Solitaire. Where is Bond now?"
- ― Dr. Kananga
Eventually confronting Rosie, Bond reveals that he knows she works for Kananga. Holding her at gunpoint, he tries to force her to give up information. However, when Rosie sees a voodoo totem, she is deeply afraid although Bond believes it to be an act. Rather risking Bond than Kananga, Rosie tries to run off. However, she is shot by a gun hidden inside on of the totems on Kananga's orders. After Rosie's death, Kananga travels to Solitaire's palace to find out what went wrong. Telling her that the trap was set and that she saw death, he asks her how Bond could survive. Solitaire tells him that the death she saw must have been Rosie's and that she cannot be held responsible for Kananga's misinterpretations if he fails to ask specific questions. Kananga tells her that her growing impertinence disturbs him. He reminds her what happened to her mother when she lost her power and became useless. He then asks where Bond is now, but Solitaire can't answer him. She tells him that she cannot see when he treats her like that, as thing become unclear. He confines her to her chambers, telling her that she made him angry and he does not want to be. After Solitaire is gone, he talks to Tee Hee.
At the night, Bond infiltrates Solitaire's palace and seduces her. By sleeping with her, she loses her power and becomes useless for Kananga.
When Solitaire is about to bring Bond to Kananga's heroin field, which is protected by large camouflage nets, Kananga is warned. He tells his men to kill Bond if he finds the field, but Bond is able to escape all pursuers. Now aware that Kananga is smuggling heroin, Bond travells to New Orleans because Hamilton was killed there. However, while in a taxi, they are kidnapped by the driver, who is the same one as in New York. He brings them to an airfield, telling them that Mr. Big wants to see him because he stole something from a friend of Big's. However, Bond is able to defeat Kananga's men and returns to Felix Leiter. Solitaire however is left behind.
In New Orleans, Leiter and Bond enter the Fillet of Souls, unaware that Strutter (they were supposed to meet there) had been killed. Remembering his last adventure in a restaurant of the Fillet of Soul chain, Bond decides against a table at the wall, instead choosing one in the middle of the room. Felix is then called away under the pretext of a phone call of Strutter and Bond alongside the table is lowered into the ground, having once again become a victim of Kananga's trap doors.
Revealing his plan
- "Quite revealing. Kananga, poppy growing thousands of acres of well camouflaged fields, protected by the voodoo threat of Baron Samedi. And as Mr. Big, distributor and whole-saler through a chain of Fillet of Soul restaurants."
- ― Bond sums up Kananga's plan.
However, Big rips his own face off, revealing that it was only a latex mask, and that he himself is Kananga. This causes Bond to seemingly finally realise Kananga's plan: Kananga grows heroin on San Monique and sells it as Mr. Big, thereby making the full profit. However, Kananga laughs, telling him that he wouldn't sell heroin for money. Bond remarks sarcastically that Kananga surely would just give it away, but Kananga confirms that this is exactly what he is intending: By distributing 2 tons of free heroin, he plans to drive every competitor out of business and likelydoubling the amount of addicts. By driving up the price of the heroin, he intends to make a fortune.
After having revealed his plan, he comes back to his initial question, whether Bond slept with Solitaire. When Bond refuses to answer out of gentlemanliness, Kananga intends to find out another way. He has Tee Hee rip off Bond's watch, which Tee Hee then brings to Kananga. Kananga then tells Tee Hee to snip off Bond's finger on Solitaire's first wrong answer, proceeding to more vital organs with every wrong answer. He then reads a registration number off the back of Bond's watch and asks Solitaire whether he spoke the truth. Solitaire, only able to guess, tells Kananga that he spoke the truth, and Kananga tells Tee Hee to let Bond go, even giving him back his watch. However, Tee Hee then knocks out Bond with his metal arm. Whisper arrives in the room and is told by Kananga to bring Bond to the farm.
After they are gone, Samedi, wearing more modern-styled clothes, enters the room. Solitaire then asks Kananga when they will go back to San Monique. Kananga tells her that they will go back soon, but then asks Solitaire why she betrayed him, revealing that the number he read was wrong, and he even gave her a fifty-fifty chance. He wants to know why she betrayed him although he gave her everything and she lacked for nothing. She tells him that the cards foresaw it. He angrily smacks her to the ground, telling her that in proper time he would have given her love and that she knew that. He says that there is only one appropriate way to deal with this betrayal, to which Samedi draws the tarot card 'Death'.
He later intends for Solitaire to be executed by Baron Samedi in voodoo fashion on San Monique. However, Bond, who has infiltrated the island, seemingly kills Samedi and saves Solitaire.
Capturing Bond and Death
- "Drown, Mr. Bond? I doubt you got the chance to drown..."
- ― Kananga reveals his intention to feed Bond and Solitaire to sharks.
Kananga laughs and aims the gun at the sofa Whisper is sitting on, causing it to inflate and eventually explodes. Kananga is highly amused, calling the weapon ingenious. He then takes one of the gas pallets, but Bond warns him to meddle with it, as the air inside is already "foul enough". Kananga replies that he never thought Bond would be a a bad loser, stating that he expected that Bond would drink with him on the success on his operation. The two is coming attached in a to a winch normally used to carry the heroin. The spy, expecting that the winch will be lowered into the water beneath, states that surely there must be a more efficient way of drowning someone. Kananga says that they will hardly have the chance to drown. He then cuts Bond on the arm, just enough to draw blood. Whisper then starts lowering the winch into the water and opens a underwater gate, through which sharks enter. With the magnetic device hidden in his clock, Bond obtains the gas pellet Kananga played with before. Bond also uses his clock to free himself from the ropes. Jumping down onto the ground, he runs towards Kananga. Whisper tries to warn his master, but due to his whispering voice Kananga cannot hear him. Bond drops Whisper into one of the air tight metal capsules used to keep the heroin dry and engages Kananga. During their fight, both men fall into the water. Under water, Bond forces Kananga to swallow the gas pallet, causing Kananga to inflate enormously before exploding.
Dr. Kananga and Baron Samedi appears in 2012 in the video game 007 Legends as two of the multiplayer characters.
Behind the scenes
At thirty-three, the actor Yaphet Kotto, who portrayed Kananga, is the youngest actor to play a main antagonist in a Bond film.
According to Yaphet Kotto, he was not allowed to make any press for the film, nor was he allowed to attend the premiere. Kotto says that the producers told him they were afraid that the reaction of the public to the villain was black.
According to Roger Moore, who played James Bond, Yaphet Kotto was difficult to work with, but Kotto denies this. Kotto maintains that though he may have been quiet, he was courteous to everyone on the film.
- Although not used in the film adaptation of Live and Let Die, Mr. Big's scheme from the books is reused in the 1989 film Licence to Kill. Instead of smuggling gold coins, however, Franz Sanchez, the main antagonist from this film, smuggles drugs. Other parts of the novel Live and Let Die are also used in Licence to Kill including the warehouse scene and Bond killing The Robber for feeding Felix Leiter to a shark. One main difference is that Sanchez is not as megalomaniacal as Kananga, as Sanchez lacks confidence he can drive rival drug lords out of business, rather he seeks more ingenuitive ways to smuggle drugs into North America and minimizing loss. A similarity to Kananga is flouting of diplomatic immunity; in Sanchez's case his intimidation and graft over the leadership of the tiny country of Isthmus.