Yaphet Kotto, ‘Alien’ and ‘Live and Let Die’ actor, dies at 81

The acclaimed Kotto made memorable appearances in a range of classics on both the big and small screen.

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Enigmatic screen star Yaphet Kotto has died at the age of 81. 

Kotto, who may have been best known for his role as Dennis Parker in the original 1979 Alien film, was known for playing tough guys on screen. In the 1990s, he starred as Lieutenant Al Giardello in the NBC series, Homicide: Life on the Street.

He also played two roles as a villain against James Bond in the 1973 hit Live and Let Die. 

Veteran film and TV actor Yaphet Kotto, pictured at the 1997 Black American Cinema Society Awards, has died at age 81. (Getty Images)

The acclaimed actor also made memorable appearances in a range of cinema classics, including the hit Arnold Schwarzenegger film The Running Man and the comedy thriller Midnight Run, in which he starred opposite Robert DeNiro. 

Thoughts on the actor’s death are pouring in on social media.

In one Twitter post, director Ava Duvernay wrote: “Yaphet Kotto. My Mom’s favorite. He’s one of those actors who deserved more than the parts he got. But he took those parts and made them wonderful all the same. A star. Rest well, sir.” 

Kotto was of Cameroonian and Panamanian-West Indian descent. He frequently said he was descended from royalty in Cameroon. 

He got his start in acting on stage and played Othello at the age of 19. He appeared in several Broadway hits before appearing in his first movie, 4 For Texas, at the age of 23. By the mid-’60s, Kotto was appearing in small roles in several major films, including the original version of The Thomas Crown Affair in 1968. 

Also a singer, Kotto released the single “Have You Ever Seen the Blues” in 1967, but his recording career was soon abandoned as he began to get larger screen roles. 

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Throughout the 1970s, Kotto played several police officers, including in the classic blaxploitation film, Across 110th Street. He earned an Emmy nomination for his portrayal of brutal Ugandan leader Idi Amin in the 1977 television film, Raid on Entebbe. 

Kotto never officially retired from acting, but he worked less after Homicide: Life on the Street ended in 1999. 

The cause of Kotto’s death is not known. He leaves, to mourn, six children and his wife, Thessa Sinahon. 

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