Richard Kiel was a prominent American actor who became an iconic figure in Hollywood during his career. Standing at an impressive 7 feet 2 inches tall, Kiel was best known for his role as Jaws, the steel-toothed villain in the James Bond films “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977) and “Moonraker” (1979). His towering presence and distinctive features made him well-suited for portraying giants, intimidating henchmen, and other similarly imposing characters on screen.
In addition to his role in the James Bond franchise, Kiel appeared in several other notable films and television shows throughout his career. One of his most memorable roles was as the tough but eloquent Mr. Larson in the 1996 comedy film “Happy Gilmore.” Off screen, Kiel led a personal life filled with love and was married to Diane Rogers Kiel. Sadly, Richard Kiel passed away on September 10, 2014, at the age of 74, leaving behind a remarkable legacy in the entertainment industry.
Early Life and Career
Beginnings in Detroit
Richard Kiel was born on September 13, 1939, in Detroit, Michigan. Growing up in a family that eventually moved to Los Angeles County, he graduated from Baldwin Park High School. Kiel’s impressive height was a result of gigantism, caused by an excess of growth hormone. Before starting an acting career, Kiel held various jobs, including working as a nightclub bouncer, vacuum cleaner salesman, cemetery plot salesman, and part-time night-school mathematics teacher at the William B. Ogden Radio Operational School located in Burbank, California.
First Roles and Acromegaly Diagnosis
Kiel’s acting career began in 1960 with his first television role on the show Laramie. He made his movie debut in the 1961 film The Phantom Planet. Kiel went on to appear in several TV series and films, including The Twilight Zone and the cult classic movie Eegah. In some of these roles, his unique height played a significant part. Furthermore, Kiel was known for playing intimidating henchmen and giants.
Alongside his acting career, Richard Kiel faced a personal struggle with the condition known as acromegaly. This rare disorder occurs when the body produces an excessive amount of growth hormone, often leading to various health complications.
Kiel met Diane Rogers, whom he later married, and they had a successful life together. Throughout his life and career, Richard Kiel remained a towering figure both on and off the screen. His legacy and unique presence in the industry will forever be remembered.
Iconic Roles and Performances
Breakthrough as a Bond Villain
Richard Kiel gained international fame for his portrayal of the steel-toothed henchman Jaws in the James Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979). Standing at an impressive 7 ft 2 in (218 cm) tall, Kiel’s intimidating stature and unique dental appliance made him an unforgettable Bond villain. His performances in these films solidified his place in the world of iconic cinema antagonists.
Other Notable Film and TV Appearances
Before achieving fame as a Bond villain, Richard Kiel appeared in various film and television productions. One of his earlier roles was in the 1965 science fiction film The Human Duplicators. Kiel also made a memorable appearance in the television series Kolchak: The Night Stalker in 1974.
Throughout his career, Kiel worked in numerous films and TV series, displaying his unique acting range. A few highlights include:
- Barbary Coast (1975) – television series
- Silver Streak (1976) – film
- Pale Rider (1985) – film
Performance in Happy Gilmore
In 1996, Richard Kiel took on the role of the tough but eloquent Mr. Larson in the Adam Sandler comedy Happy Gilmore. Known for his imposing presence and powerful delivery, Kiel’s portrayal of Mr. Larson brought a unique dynamic to the film. This role allowed Kiel to showcase his skills in the realm of comedic acting and further expanded his acting repertoire.
In all of his work, Richard Kiel maintained a confident, knowledgeable, and clear presence. His wife, Diane Rogers Kiel, was often by his side, offering support throughout his acting career. Kiel’s performances in the James Bond films, Happy Gilmore, and other notable appearances, continue to be celebrated by fans and critics alike.
Family and Relationships
Richard Kiel was married twice in his lifetime. His first marriage was to Faye Daniels in 1960, and they eventually divorced in 1973. Kiel then married Diane Rogers in 1974, and they remained together until he died in 2014. Richard and Diane had a strong bond, and Diane Rogers Kiel played a significant role in his life.
Together, Richard and Diane had four children. They managed to keep their family life relatively private, focusing on raising their children and maintaining a stable home environment.
In addition to his family, Kiel had a close friendship with fellow actor Roger Moore. Both actors starred together in the James Bond films “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker,” where their on-screen chemistry translated into a strong off-screen friendship5.
Throughout his life, Richard Kiel faced health challenges due to his acromegaly, a condition that caused excessive growth hormone production and contributed to his extraordinary height. Despite these challenges, Kiel remained an active and accomplished actor, leaving a lasting impact on the world of cinema.
Legacy and Influence
Memorable Bond Henchman
Richard Kiel is best known for his role as the famous big guy with silver teeth in the Bond movies, where he portrayed the iconic character Jaws. Having appeared in both The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979), Kiel’s Jaws character is recognized as one of the most memorable henchmen in the James Bond series. His impressive height of 7 feet 2 inches and the menacing silver teeth contributed to the lasting influence of the character in popular culture.
Earlier in his career, before gaining fame in the Bond movies, Kiel worked as a nightclub bouncer and even a cemetery plot salesman. The actor also made appearances in well-known movies and TV shows such as The Longest Yard (1974), Silver Streak (1976), and Happy Gilmore (1996).
Throughout his life, Richard Kiel had to cope with various health challenges. He suffered from coronary artery disease, and in 2014, Kiel experienced a heart attack at St. Agnes Medical Center in Fresno, Calif. Kiel’s passing was reported by TMZ, leaving behind his wife Diane Rogers Kiel, with whom he had survived over four decades.
Despite his health struggles, Richard Kiel’s legacy lives on through his iconic roles and their impact on the world of entertainment. The menacing image of Jaws with his silver teeth has become an enduring symbol in the Bond movie franchise and beyond. Audiences around the world continue to celebrate his work, and his influence will forever be felt in the Hollywood landscape.