Richard Kiel Biography
Richard Dawson Kiel was an American actor who became a cult favorite for his iconic portrayal of Bond henchman Jaws in two James Bond films. Born in Detroit, Michigan, on September 13, 1939, Kiel’s towering height of 7 ft 2 in was due to a condition caused by an excess of human growth hormone.
His family moved to Los Angeles County when he was nine years old, where he eventually graduated from Baldwin Park High School. Before becoming an actor, Richard Kiel worked in several jobs, including as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman, a nightclub bouncer, and a cemetery plot salesman, and as a night-school mathematics instructor in Burbank, California.
Richard Kiel began his acting career in the early 1960s and appeared in several TV shows, including The Twilight Zone, Laramie, I Dream of Jeannie, Gilligan’s Island, and many more. Due to his towering height, Kiel was often cast in villainous roles, including the towering mute-but-lethal assistant to Dr. Miguelito Loveless in The Wild Wild West and the iconic Bond villain Jaws.
In film, Richard Kiel’s breakout role came in the 1962 movie Eegah, which was later featured on Elvira’s Movie Macabre and Mystery Science Theater 3000. He also had a brief appearance in The Nutty Professor (1963). Kiel later produced, co-wrote, and starred in The Giant of Thunder Mountain (1991).
Richard Kiel’s portrayal of Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979) became his most famous and iconic roles. His towering height, physical presence, and the trademark metal teeth made him a memorable Bond villain. However, Kiel revealed that the metal teeth were extremely painful to wear and could only be used for a few minutes on every take.
That same year, Kiel starred alongside Bond girls Barbara Bach and Corinne Cléry in Italian sci-fi movie The Humanoid. Later in his career, Richard Kiel played Mr. Larson, Happy Gilmore’s former employer, in the 1996 movie Happy Gilmore, in which he exchanges several one-liners with Adam Sandler and Christopher McDonald. Kiel also voiced the character of Vlad, a softhearted thug who collects ceramic unicorns, in the animated Disney film Tangled (2010).
Aside from his acting career, Richard Kiel was also a published author. He co-authored a biography of the abolitionist Cassius Marcellus Clay, titled Kentucky Lion: The True Story of Cassius Clay and he published his own autobiography, Making It Big in the Movies, in 2002.
Richard Kiel was married twice in his lifetime. His first marriage was to Faye Daniels in 1960, which ended in divorce in the early 1970s. He later married Diane Rogers, who was 5 ft 1 in (154 cm) tall. Their marriage lasted for 40 years, until Kiel passed away. They had four children and nine grandchildren.
On September 10, 2014, just three days before his 75th birthday, Kiel passed away at St. Agnes Medical Center in Fresno, California, due to a heart attack.