The actor Yaphet Kotto, who was best known for his roles in the police television series “Homicide: Life on the Street” and for a film career that included roles in “Alien” and the James Bond film “Live and Let Die,” died Monday at the age of 81.
“You played a villain on some of your movies but for me you’re a real hero and to a lot of people also. A good man, a good father, a good husband and a decent human being, very rare to find,” his wife, Thessa Sinahon, wrote in a Facebook post. They had been married for the last 24 years.
Kotto was born in 1939 in New York to a Jewish father from Cameroon and a mother who converted to Judaism. He began studying acting as a teenager and appeared on Broadway, including in “The Great White Hope.”
His film career began in the early 1960s, and in 1968 he appeared in “The Thomas Crown Affair.” He starred in “The Limit,” a movie that he also directed and wrote the screenplay for. It was released in 1972.
His first big break came when he played the villain in the James Bond film “Live and Let Die” in 1973. In 1977, he played the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the made-for-television film “Raid on Entebbe,” about the 1976 Israeli hostage rescue operation, a role for which he was nominated for an Emmy as outstanding supporting actor in a miniseries or a movie. In 1979, he appeared in Ridley Scott’s film “Alien.”
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Kotto, who was 1.93 meters (6’4”) tall, appeared in such films as “The Running Man” in 1987 alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the following year in “Midnight Run,” starring Robert De Niro, in which he played an FBI agent. But the character with which he was most identified in recent decades – from 1993 through 2000 – was police lieutenant Al Giardello in “Homicide: Life on the Street” .
His final film role came in 2008 in the comic drama “Witless Protection.”