American actor Yaphet Kotto, who played the villain in the 1974 Bond film “Live and Let Die” and a member of the ship’s crew in “Alien,” has died at age 81.
Japhet Kotto, an American actor who starred in detectives for more than four decades, played FBI agents and other tough guys and memorably battled James Bond and dangerous aliens, died March 15 in the Philippines. His agent, Ryan Goldhar, confirmed the death but gave no further details.
Cotto was about 16 when he dropped out of high school in New York, told his parents he would look for work, and began secretly spending his days at the movie theater. One day he saw the movie “On the Waterfront” in Times Square – it was his first film with Marlon Brando – and it completely changed his plans for the future. “I couldn’t talk. It was like someone had punched me in the stomach or smashed plates near my ears. I got kicked out of the theater. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to be an actor,” Cotto recalled.
His father was a Jewish construction worker from Cameroon, his mother a Catholic nurse and an army officer from Panama, and he grew up one of the few yarmulke boys in Harlem and one of the few African American students in a predominantly Irish Bronx school.
He later studied acting and practiced his diction with a tape recorder, gaining national fame in 1969 after replacing James Earl Jones as the Broadway star of The Great White Hope, based on the life of Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight to become a champion The following year he starred in Liberation L.B. Jones.
Cotto played the villainous Kananga, a Caribbean dictator and drug smuggler, in, the first Bond film starring Roger Moore. He later appeared alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the dystopian action film The Running Man, played an FBI agent in pursuit of Robert De Niro and Charles Grodin in Midnight. In Alien, Cotto played Engineer Parker traveling on the spaceship Nostromo with an all-white crew that included Sigourney Weaver and John Hurt.