Yaphet Kotto, whether you remember him as the worst Bond Villain or a member of the Nostromo crew or as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s running mate in The Running Man, it is a certainty that you have seen him in something, and you’ve probably overlooked him too.
Born Yaphet Frederick Kotto on November 15th, 1939 in New York City to a mixed parentage of Panamanian, West Indian and (Royal)Cameroon descent, his Father was the Crown Prince of the Royal Bell family of Cameron.
By the time he was 15, Yaphet was studying to be an actor and his first acting role was in a stage play of Othello at the age of 19. His first film role was in 1963 when he was 23 in the film 4 For Texas. He played a supporting role in The Thomas Crown Affair in 1968 and was in an episode of the first season of Hawaii Five-O. That versatile, he even released a single in 1967.
1973 saw him land the role of Mr Big in Live and Let Die and the role is credited as the worst Bond Villain, but in Yaphet’s defence he had not much to work with, the script was not that good. In 1977 he portrayed Idi Amin in Raid on Entebbe. In 1979 he portrayed Parker in Ridley Scott’s Alien.
Ever the adaptable actor, he worked on television as well as film and in 1983 he guested in an A-Team episode as a mobster. In 1987 he starred alongside Arnie in The Running Man. It has been noted in a memo that he was considered, by Paramount, for the role of Jean-Luc Picard, which we all know went to Patrick Stewart.
Yaphet retired from acting in the mid 1990’s after Homicide: Life on the Street, apart from a role in the 2008 film Witless Protection. And in 2014 he voiced his character, Parker, from the Alien series in the video game Alien: Isolation.
Married three times, father of six, Yaphet passed away near Manila in the Philippines, his third wife is from there, on March 15th 2021 at the age of 81. No cause of death was given.