Yaphet Kotto dies

Yaphet Kotto with Roger Moore in Live And Let Die

Yaphet Kotto, who played the villain in the first Roger Moore James Bond movie, Live And Let Die, has died at 81, according to website Comicbook.com, which cited a post by Kotto’s official Facebook site.

Kotto played Dr. Kananga, prime minister of the fictional Caribbean island of San Monique. Kananga also impersonates American gangster Mr. Big, who operates out of Harlem in New York City. Kotto’s character, with both identities, opposes Moore’s Bond in his first 007 film outing.

All of that was a major change dreamed up by Tom Mankiewicz, the sole screenwriter for Live And Let Die.

In the documentary Inside Live And Let Die, Mankiewicz said he was approached by Eon Productions about what Ian Fleming novel he’d like to adapt. Mankiewicz was the second scribe on Eon’s Diamonds Are Forever, which featured the return of Sean Connery as James Bond. It was a hit and Eon wanted Mankiewicz back.

The screenwriter, in the documentary, quoted himself as saying he wanted to do Live And Let Die because it was edgier. The book was Fleming’s second Bond novel and featured Bond against Black villains in New York, Florida and the Caribbean.

Kotto had a long career. His credits included 1979’s Alien, Across 110th Street and a first-season Hawaii Five-O episode as a U.S. soldier suffering a head injury who thinks he’s back in Vietnam.

UPDATE (2 a.m., New York Time): Variety has a story about Kotto’s death that includes a confirmation from his agent.

A trivia note: Both Kotto and his Live And Let Die co-star, Julius W. Harris (Tee Hee), played Uganda President Idi Amin in competing productions about the 1976 Israeli raid at Entebbe. Harris appeared first (in a show produced on video tape) on ABC, while Kotto was on a filmed NBC production. The latter was directed by Irvin Kershner, who’d later helm The Empire Strikes Back and Never Say Never Again.

3 Responses

  1. My first Bond villian. Tee had the claw hand, but Dr Kananga had the crocs.

  2. “Live and let die”(1973) was my first experience of watching a bond movie on the big screen, yaphet kotto as a bond villain was larger than life to me. You can imagine what it was like for a 12-year-old boy like me. I became one of kotto’s facebook friends about 3-years ago we never agreed on many topics especially about idris elba possibly being the next james bond, he said to me that it cannot work, then he pitched the idea to me that elba would make a great rogue mi6 agent who tries to destroy all 00 agents including james bond 007. His idea still remains inside me today the late yaphett kotto a real gentleman and professional who wasn’t affraid to speak his mind r.ip

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