Richard Dawson Kiel (September 13, 1939 September 10, 2014) was a Detroit-born performer notable for being one of the tallest actors ever recorded (7 ft 1.5 in / 2.17 m), due to the condition called acromegaly.
He was best known for his role as the giant steel-toothed henchman Jaws in the James Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. His next-most recognized role was Mr. Larson in Happy Gilmore. He also played in films such as The Longest Yard, Silver Streak, Force 10 from Navarone, Pale Rider, and voiced giant pub thug Vladimir in Tangled. He also had small parts such as in Jerry Lewis's The Nutty Professor and alongside Elvis Presley in Roustabout.
On TV, his earliest acting roles were in the western series Klondike 1960 and Laramie. He notably played the Kanamit alien in The Twilight Zone and Voltaire, the assistant of Dr. Miguelito Loveless, in The Wild Wild West.
In 1992, he was injured in a car accident that affected his balance, forcing him to use a cane and later a scooter or wheelchair. This is why in any of his roles past that date, he is either sitting or leaning on something, and when he walks, he is only shown from the waist up to disguise the scooter moving him.
He passed away just three days before his 75th birthday from a heart attack. He was married twice, fathering four children with his second wife.
Tropes and Trivia in his works:
- Acting for Two: He played all of the Kanamits, a race of Ditto Aliens, in The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "To Serve Man".
- Actor-Inspired Element: About getting the role of Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me, he said: "I was very put off by the description of the character and I thought, 'Well, they don't really need an actor, he's more a monster part'... I said if I were to play the part, I want to give the character some human characteristics, like perseverance, frustration." By the the time of Moonraker, he had persuaded the movie's crew not only that Jaws could renounce his psychotic ways but also that he could find love.
- Adam Westing: Often lampooned his role of Jaws in commercials or in films such as Inspector Gadget (1999).
- Big Guy, Little Guy: As Voltaire, the assistant of Dr. Miguelito Loveless in The Wild Wild West. Loveless was played by actor Michael Dunn, who was 3 ft 10 in height due to medical dwarfism.
- Character Tics: He was blind in one eye, resulting in his head often being cocked to the side.
- Genius Bruiser: As noted below, he worked to make his characters examples of this trope. Years before playing Jaws, he did a similar role in the grade-Z Bond knock-off A Man Called Dagger, where his character Otto starts to give an erudite summary of Adolf Hitler's tactical mistakes during World War II before being cut off by his villainous employer.
- He Also Did: Kiel was also an amateur historian in his spare time. In 2007 he published a biography of abolitionist Cassius Clay, one of his personal heroes, and donated the sales to a scholarship fund in Kentucky.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: When producers thought Blanche Ravalec (the actress playing his love interest in Moonraker) was too short compared to him, he pointed out the height discrepancy with his actual second wife, Diane, who was a solid 25 inches (63.5 cm) shorter than him.
- Scary Teeth: Jaws, of course. He had to wear painful steel teeth prosthetics to play him.
- Giant Mooks and giant Implacable Men. He actually subverted this with Jaws by making him more "human" and comedic, and the character became surprisingly popular as a result.
- Also subverted in Happy Gilmore, where he appears to play right into it in his first scene but then is a perfectly nice, pleasant guy when he shows up again - getting a nail embedded in your skull would put a crimp in anyone's day.