Consummate thespian Yaphet Kotto always made any movie he was in that much better just by virtue of his acting talents which glowed white hot. His very presence in a frame of film demanded, and promptly received, full attention from viewers. Yes, the Live and Let Die star was simply that good. Which is but one reason of a million why it’s this writer’s sad undertaking to report that the man who added panache and gusto to a film role be it big or be it small has passed away at the age of 81, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Born on November 15, 1939 in the Big Apple (A.K.A. New York City) to parents Gladys Marie and Avraham Kotto, the man who would one day trade lines of dialogue with fellow acting legend Robert De Niro began his acting journey at the tender age of sixteen, studying his craft at the Actors Mobile Theater Studio. Kotto was accomplished enough to make his professional debut as an actor just a few years later in a stage production of Othello. Around that time, and just to illustrate what a beast of a talent he was, Kotto landed a coveted spot at the Actors Studio in New York. This may not raise an eyebrow now, but membership in the vaunted Studio was reserved for only the best and brightest: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, James Dean, Dustin Hoffman, Martin Landau, Sidney Poitier, Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift were but a few examples of the alumni for the prestigious Actors Studio. Naturally, Yaphet Kotto with his commanding yet warm voice and his penetrating eyes fit right in.
His list of film work is long and everyone knows at least one Kotto performance – The Running Man, The Thomas Crown Affair, Desperado and Midnight Run are all standouts.
For many horror movie fans, it’s Kotto’s work in Ridley Scott’s nigh classic Alien and Rachel Talalay’s Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare that has resounded most significantly. In both parts, Kotto exuded strength and masculinity. Particularly with the latter long-in-the-tooth Nightmare On Elm Street sequel the ever-durable thespian’s character was the exact heroic type any self-respecting fan of the horror genre would want in their corner if battling a villain sporting a finger-knives wielding glove.
Yaphet Kotto leaves behind a wife and six children and an army of admirers that will miss him greatly.