Richard Kiel

Not only did the actor Richard Kiel have a larger-than-life personality and unparalleled charisma: the “Moonraker” star, who was born on 13th September 1939 in Detroit, Michigan, USA, always stood out thanks to his towering height of 7ft 2ins (218cms).

The Michigan native’s abnormal height was the result of acromegaly, caused by the presence of excess growth hormone. In 1948, the Kiel family moved to Los Angeles County; a few years later, Richard matriculated from Baldwin Park High School and delved straight into the workforce.

From working as a nightclub bouncer and vacuum cleaner salesman, to becoming one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, the actor had an extraordinary life, before he passed away on 10th September 2014 surrounded by his loved ones, in Fresno, California. Richard’s notable projects include roles in “Silver Streak”, “Pale Rider”, and “The Spy Who Loved Me”. A little-known fact about the famous James Bond villain is that he also taught mathematics at William B. Ogden Radio Operational School during the mid-1960s.

Notable Roles: TV

One of Richard’s first notable small-screen appearances was playing a 9-foot tall alien, close to thee-meters, in a 1962 episode of “Twilight Zone”, although by then he had already guest-starred in a handful of shows such as “The Phantom” and “Klondike”.

Richard’s size meant that he was often cast in villainous roles. Between 1965 and 1966, he played Dr. Miguelito Loveless’s mute but deadly assistant, Voltaire, in “The Wild Wild West”, and would later return to the show as Dimas, the son of a wealthy family who was banished due to his birth defects. The 1968 episode, “The Night of the Simian Terror”, was an important milestone in Richard’s career, as he got to display his acting talents instead of just using his intimidating looks.

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In 1975, Richard had his second recurring TV role playing Moose Moran in 14 episodes of “Barbary Coast”. The Western/spy series was set in the 1870s, and followed a government agent named Jeff Cable and his conman and gambler sidekick Cash.

A year after Richard’s final “Barbary Coast” appearance, he began filming the pilot episode of “The Incredible Hulk” as the main character, a role for which Arnold Schwarzenegger had been turned down. Producers quickly dismissed Richard as they wanted a more muscular Hulk; however, the actor didn’t mind losing the part, as he disliked the contact lenses and green makeup he had to wear for the role; he was soon replaced by Lou Ferrigno.

Richard’s final TV appearance was playing Mortimer in a 2000 episode of the paranormal series “Bloodhounds Inc.”

Notable Roles: Film

Richard’s long and memorable movie career commenced with an uncredited role in the 1960 production, “The D.I.” In 1962, he starred alongside Marilyn Manning and Arch Hall Jr. in “Eegah”, a horror movie often rated to be amongst the worst films ever made. Eegah, Richard’s character, was a giant caveman who kidnapped Roxy (played by Marilyn) while she was driving through the California desert late at night. Throughout the movie, Eegah expressed romantic interest in Roxy, and followed her back into civilization when she was rescued by her boyfriend; however, he was killed after a confrontation.

Richard had a number of uncredited roles throughout the ‘60s, in “Roustabout”, “The Nasty Rabbit”, and “Two on a Guillotine” to name a few movies. Most of his appearances were non-speaking, as is the case for his minor role in “The Nutty Professor”. In the late 1970s, James Bond film producers cast Richard as Jaws in “The Spy Who Loved Me”, considering the actor ideal for the role; with his later appearance in “Moonraker”, he would become one of the few Bond villains to appear in two Bond movies.

For the role, Richard had to wear an extremely painful mouthpiece that could only be used for a few minutes on every take, so he was mostly shot with his mouth closed or briefly smiling. Due to the Michigan native’s fear of heights, he refused to film the cable car scenes and a stunt double was used instead. Later, he reprised his role in the videogame “James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing”; he was also nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor, for his portrayal of Jaws in “Moonraker”.

In 1991, Richard produced, co-wrote and starred in “The Giant of Thunder Mountain”. The movie, which grossed little over $126,000 at the box office, saw two young boys climb up Thunder Mountain and find a giant named Eli Weaver, who was surprisingly civilized despite living in a log cabin. At the end, the townspeople asked Eli if he would become their sheriff, but he preferred to return to the life he knew, but leaving on good terms with his new friends.

Many of Richard’s movie roles had little to no dialogue, until he played Mr. Larson in “Happy Gilmore”, the 1996 sports comedy film starring Adam Sandler and Christopher McDonald. Upon the movie’s release, the actor went into semi-retirement until 2010, when he played Vladimir in Disney’s acclaimed animated film “Tangled”. Despite his menacing appearance, Vladimir was surprisingly softhearted, and not as villainous as viewers initially thought he was.

Personal Life & Death

In 1960, Richard married his long-time girlfriend, Faye Daniels. The marriage ended in the early 1970s, but the “Moonraker” star found love again just a year later, with his second wife Diane Rogers. The couple remained married until Richard’s death and had four children and nine grandchildren; despite the huge height difference between them, Diane – who was just 5ft 1in (154cm) tall – once jokingly said that she and Richard saw eye to eye on many things.

Richard’s autobiography, “Making It Big in the Movies”, was published in 2002. The “Twilight Zone” alum previously revealed that his religious conversion and becoming a born-again Christian helped him battle and eventually overcome his alcohol addiction.

Just three days before his 75th birthday, Richard died of a heart attack at St. Agnes Medical Center; the week before, he was admitted to the hospital with a broken leg. His death was mourned by thousands in the movie community, and in one of the many obituaries remembering his life and five-decade career, he was described as “a gentle soul with a mischievous sense of humor”.

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