Yaphet Frederick Kotto (November 15, 1939 – March 15, 2021) was an American actor known for numerous film roles, as well as starring in the NBC television series Homicide: Life on the Street (1993–99) as Lieutenant Al Giardello. His films include the science-fiction/horror film Alien (1979), and the Arnold Schwarzenegger science-fiction/action film The Running Man (1987). He portrayed the main villain Dr. Kananga/Mr. Big in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die (1973). He appeared opposite Robert De Niro in the comedy thriller Midnight Run (1988) as FBI agent Alonzo Mosely.
The Bell family is a very powerful, well-known and respected royal family in the Wouri estuary of what is now the Republic of Cameroon, with authority over the township of Bell. They were leaders of the Duala people long before Cameroon became a republic. The European colonists were the first to call the Duala leaders kings. The first Duala leader to use the title was King Ndumbe Lobe Bell, who succeeded his father Lobé Bébé Bell in 1858 and ruled until 1897. In 1914, King Rudolf Duala Manga Bell was executed for high treason by the Germans, who suppressed the monarchy in the colony they controlled. Under the laws of the current Republic of Cameroon (founded 1960), the reigning prince is considered an auxiliary of the state which he must support at all times. On January 24, 2014 Jean Yves Dieudonné Gaston Eboumbou Douala Manga Bell succeeded his father Prince René Douala Manga Bell.
In 1973 he landed the role of the James Bond villain Mr. Big in Live and Let Die, as well as roles in Across 110th Street and Truck Turner. Kotto portrayed Idi Amin in the 1977 television film Raid on Entebbe. He starred as an auto worker in the 1978 film Blue Collar. The following year he played Parker in the sci-fi–horror film Alien. He followed with a supporting role in the 1980 prison drama Brubaker. In 1983, he guest-starred as mobster Charlie "East Side Charlie" Struthers in The A-Team episode "The Out-of-Towners". In 1987, he appeared in the futuristic sci-fi movie The Running Man, and in 1988, in the action-comedy Midnight Run, in which he portrayed Alonzo Moseley, an FBI agent. A memo from Paramount indicates that Kotto was among those being considered for Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, a role which eventually went to Patrick Stewart.
Kotto's first marriage was to a German immigrant, Rita Ingrid Dittman, whom he married in 1959. They had three children together before divorcing in 1976. A week after his divorce, Kotto married Toni Pettyjohn, and also had three children together, before divorcing in 1989 Kotto married his third wife, Tessie Sinahon on July 12, 1998.
Kotto died on March 15, 2021 in the Philippines. No cause of death was given.
- Batamag, Emanuel (January 4, 2013). "Cameroun: qui était Son Altesse Royale le Prince René Douala Manga Bell?". afrik.com (in French). Retrieved January 3, 2016.
- Diba, Rita (January 26, 2014). "Un prince régnant officiel au canton Bell". Cameroon Tribune. Retrieved 3 January 2016.
- Letters of Note: STAR TREK/Casting, lettersofnote.com; August 2010.
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