Richard Dawson Kiel (13 September 1939 – 10 September 2014) was an American actor, best known for his role as the steel-toothed Jaws in the James Bond-movies The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979), as well as the video game Everything or Nothing, and Mr. Larson in Happy Gilmore.
Background and filmography
Kiel was born in Detroit, Michigan. He made his acting debut in a 1960 Laramie-episode called Street of Hate. He also acted in an unaired TV-pilot featuring Lee Falk's superhero The Phantom, where Kiel played an assassin called Big Mike, who was hired to kill the title hero.
Kiel broke into films in the early 1960s with the B-movie Eegah (1962), which was later featured on the TV-show Elvira's Movie Macabre, Mystery Science Theater 3000, as were The Phantom Planet and The Human Duplicators. He also co-wrote, produced, and starred in the family-friendly movie The Giant of Thunder Mountain. Kiel also appeared as the towering — and lethal — assistant Voltaire to Dr. Miguelito Loveless, in episodes from the first season of The Wild, Wild West. He later appeared in another role, in the episode The Night of the Simian Terror, as the outcast son of a wealthy family, banished because of birth defects that distorted his body and apparently affected his mind. This episode was significant, because it allowed Kiel the opportunity to really act, rather than just look intimidating. Kiel also had a cameo role in a 1961-episode of The Rifleman. Kiel also starred in the Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man", about a race of large humanoid aliens, where he played all the extraterrestrials depicted on screen. A pre-Bond spy role was done by Kiel on the childrens' show Gilligan's Island, where he played a Russian spy, known only as "The Ghost" sent to scout out Gilligan's Island as a potential outpost for the Russian Navy.
He also played the role of the hitman with metal teeth Reace in the 1976-film Silver Streak. Kiel and Arnold Schwarzenegger were the original choices to play the title character in the TV-series called The Incredible Hulk. Schwarzenegger was turned down due to his height. Kiel participated in the filming of the TV movie pilot. During the shoot, producers decided their Hulk needed to be muscular rather than just towering, and Kiel was dismissed because he possessed more body fat than the producers deemed necessary. According to a Den of Geek-interview, Kiel, who sees properly out of only one eye, also reacted badly to the contact lenses used for the role, and found the green makeup difficult to remove, so he did not mind losing the part. All recognizable footage of Kiel was cut; the scenes were then reshot with Lou Ferrigno.
Comedian Adam Sandler had seen Kiel as Jaws and cast him in the role of "Mr. Larson" in his 1995 film Happy Gilmore. Kiel was best known in that film as a spectator at a golf tournament who sees the hero win, then sees a rival player steal the sport coat given to the winner. He shouts "I believe that is Mr. Gilmore's!" and chases after the villain.
A cameo of Kiel in his Jaws outfit, but not expressly stated as such, was seen in the 1999 film Inspector Gadget, where he is seen with a group of noted wrongdoers in a "Bad Guys' Anonymous" meeting. He was credited as "Famous Guy with Big Silver Teeth".
He reprised his role of Jaws in the 2004-game James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing, supplying his voice and likeness.
On September 10, 2014, while being hospitalized for a broken leg in Fresno, California, Richard Kiel died three days short of his 75th birthday.
Before breaking into film & TV, Kiel worked in numerous jobs including a night club bouncer and a cemetery plot salesman. Kiel's distinctive height and features were a result of a hormonal condition known as acromegaly. In his prime, Kiel stood 7 feet 1.5 inches (217 cm) tall. He noted in his 2002 autobiography, "Making It Big in the Movies" (ISBN 1-903111-31-5), that he used to state that he was 7 feet 2 inches (218.44 cm), simply because it was easier to remember and most registration forms asked for inches in whole numbers instead of fractions. He suffered from acrophobia, and during the cable car stunt scenes in Moonraker, a stunt double was used, because Kiel refused to be filmed on the top of a cable car at over 2000 feet high.
In 1992, Kiel suffered a severe head injury in a car accident, which affected his balance. Since that accident, he was forced to walk with a cane to support himself (as shown in his appearance in the movie Happy Gilmore, where he is seen leaning on a person or a cane). He was also seen using a scooter or wheelchair in Welcome to Sweden.
In his later years, he co-authored a biography of the abolitionist Cassius Marcellus Clay called "Kentucky Lion". He was also a born-again Christian. He also admitted in his autobiography of his struggles with alcoholism, which had been a stark contrast to the suave, martini drinking image of Bond. Kiel said he had never been much of a drinker as he was mainly focused on getting all bills paid early in his career, which did not leave much left over to be spent on drink. With the royalties that came with the success of his flagship role as Jaws, his financial worries were over, which also afforded him the more expensive alcohol such as liquers and cognacs, and he had descended into alcoholism. Kiel's website stated that his belief in Christianity in his later years helped him overcome alcohol addiction.