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Actor Yaphet Kotto (1939-2021)


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Yaphet Kotto, the New York-born actor known for his  memorable characters in numerous film and television productions, has died at the age of 81,

His widow Sinahon Thessa, who announced his death on Facebook, said Kotto died in the Philippines. "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 wrote. "A good man, a good father, a good husband and a decent human being, very rare to find."

Actor Yaphet Kotto, James Bond villain and 'Alien' star, dead at 81

Kotto and Anthony Quinn played veteran New York City police officer determined to keep the peace after a trio of Black men from Harlem pull off a bold heist of $300,000 in mob money. Directed by Barry Shear, the film -- which also starred Anthony Franciosa, Paul Benjamin, Ed Bernard and Antonio Fargas -- is remembered for its soundtrack that included  songs written and performed by Bobby Womack.

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In the 1973 James Bond thriller "Live and Let Die" -- Sir Roger Moore's debut appearance as 007 -- Kotto played the sinister Dr. Kananga (a.k.a. the international crime kingpin Mr. Big), who menaced the British superspy and  a once-trusted adviser named Solitaire (Jane Seymour).

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Kotto received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for his portrayal of the Ugandan strongman Idi Amin Dada in the 1976 made-for-television movie "Raid on Entebbe," He was nominated in the category of Outstanding Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Comedy or Drama Special. The production, which also starred Peter Finch,  Charles Bronson, Martin Balsam, Horst Buchholz, John Saxon and Jack Warden, was based on the real-life 1976 Israeli rescue of hostages held captive by terrorists at the Ugandan airport in Entebbe.

Yaphet Kotto in Raid on Entebbe (1976)
 
Raid on Entebbe (1976)

Co-written and directed by Paul Schrader -- who wrote the screenplay for "Taxi Driver" -- the 1978 drama "Blue Collar" teamed Kotto with Harvey Keitel and Richard Pryor. They played Detroit auto plant workers who hatched a plan to steal the contents of a safe at their union's headquarters.

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Kotto appeared as Parker -- one of the doomed crew members of the 22nd century starfreighter Nostromo -- in Sir Ridley Scott's classic space thriller "Alien." The film, which won the 1979 Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, also starred Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Sir John Hurt, Sir Ian Holm, Harry Dean Stanton and Veronica Cartwright. After "Alien," Kotto reportedly turned down the roles of Lando Calrissian in "Star Wars: Episode V -- The Empire Strikes Back" and Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in TV's "Star Trek: The Next Generation." The reason: He did not want to be typecast in sci-fi productions.

In the 1988 comedy/drama "Midnight Run," Kotto appeared as an FBI agent who complicated the plans of a bounty hunter (Robert De Niro) to bring in a shady mob accountant (Charles Grodin). 

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 From 1993 to 1999, Kotto was a regular in the Emmy Award-winning NBC drama series "Homicide: Life on the Street" as the demanding  Lt. Al Giardello,  Sr. of the Baltimore Police Department. "Giardello is one of the few characters on television that presented a positive Black man in a positive role with strengths and weaknesses and all the rest," Kotto said. "When they created Giardello, they created a bigger-than-life character. Consequently, people who grew up on John Wayne and the kind of bigger-than-life characters like Clark Gable that Hollywood used to give us, saw Giardello as a father figure or maybe an uncle. I know this because of the way people reacted to me and the character publicly and privately." 

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If Yaphet Kotto was in it, it was better. Sometimes much better. From Blue Collar to Midnight Run; from Nothing But a Man to Across 110th St; from Alien to Homicide: Life on the Street. He made Live and Let Die memorable, yet the studio didn’t want him promoting the film. Damn.
 

 

Memories and respect for Yaphet Kotto, whose film career was legend even before he came to Baltimore to grace our television drama. But for me, he'll always be Al Giardello, the unlikeliest Sicilian, gently pulling down the office blinds to glower at detectives in his squadroom.

 

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RIP Yaphet Kotto. So good in so many 1970s movies, from Alien to Blue Collar to Across 110th Street, and then indelible in the great '90s series Homicide: Life on the Street, which does not stream and is worth buying a DVD player for.
 

 

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Yaphet Kotto. My Mom’s favorite. He’s one of those actors who deserved more than the parts he got. But he took those parts and made them wonderful all the same. A star. Rest well, sir.
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Here’s an interview Roger Ebert did with Yaphet Kotto discussing his amazing performance in “Blue Collar” https://rogerebert.com/interviews/yaphet-kotto-blue-collar
 
 
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I just posted a picture of him yesterday in one of the Games & Trivia threads.

He's great in LIVE AND LET DIE (1973) with Roger Moore & Jane Seymour.

Screen Shot 2021-03-15 at 2.27.56 PM 2

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Certainly an actor with a commanding presence.

Became a big fan of his during the time he played the chief of detectives on the terrific 1990's television series, Homicide: Life on the Street.

(...R.I.P. Mr. Kotto)

 

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46 minutes ago, Dargo said:

Certainly an actor with a commanding presence.

Became a big fan of his during the time he played the chief of detectives on the terrific 1990's television series, Homicide: Life on the Street.

(...R.I.P. Mr. Kotto)

 

That's what I remember him for too. He was commanding in that role. 

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This is sad.  I always liked Yaphet.   For his acting of course, but also---

He resembled a foreman I worked for at Cadillac that I liked as well.  ;)  And often got ribbed about the resemblance.

Rest In Peace. Sir.

Sepiatone

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He lived in Canada for many years.  This from the imdb ..

Moved from Littleton, Colorado to Canada, because he felt it would be safer to live there. Two years after moving, he saw the news coverage on Columbine, and recognized some of the kids fleeing the school.

from wikipedia

In 2000, he was living in Marmora, Ontario, Canada.[19]

 

  1.  Ebden, Theresa (August 25, 2000). "An actor in search of character detail"The Globe and Mail.
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