He Turned Down Playing Lando to Avoid Typecasting

Yaphet Kotto of 'Alien' and the first Black villain in James Bond franchise has died at 81
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 16, 2021 7:55 AM CDT

He was killed by an alien on screen and served as the first Black villain for the James Bond movie franchise. Now, Yaphet Kotto, a New York City native who started acting as a teen, has died at the age of 81, his agent confirms to Variety. The New York Times reports he died near Manila, in the Philippines. Kotto's wife, Tessie Sinahon, first broke the news on Facebook on Monday, calling it a "very [painful] moment." Kotto began his acting career in the theater, making his pro debut in Othello before heading to Broadway to take James Earl Jones' place in The Great White Hope in 1969, per The Hollywood Reporter. Kotto had by that time segued into movies and TV, including with a role in 1968's The Thomas Crown Affair and a stint on Hawaii Five-0. After landing the dual role of Dr. Kananga and Mr. Big in 1973's Live and Let Die, Kotto continued working on the big screen until he landed the role of Parker in 1979's Alien.

Kotto was also approached about playing Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back, a role that ended up going to Billy Dee Williams after he turned it down. "I wanted to get back down on Earth," he said in a 2003 interview, per THR. "I was afraid that if I did another space film after having done Alien, then I'd be [typecast]." He was also known for his co-starring role in 1987's The Running Man, alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, and for his character of Lt. Al "Gee" Giardello on the long-running NBC '90s series Homicide: Life on the Street. "You played a villain [in] some of your movies but for me you're a real hero and to a lot of people also," his wife wrote in her Facebook post. "A good man, a good father, a good husband and a decent human being, very rare to find. One of the best [actors] in Hollywood." Kotto is survived by his wife and six children. (More celebrity death stories.)

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