Yaphet Kotto, an imposing actor who descended from African royalty and was known for playing tough characters in a roster of films like “Alien” and “Midnight Run,” died on Monday near Manila in the Philippines. He was 81.
His death was confirmed on Tuesday by his agent, Ryan Goldhar. His wife, Thessa Sinahon, announced it in a Facebook post. No other details were immediately available.
Mr. Kotto, who said he came from Cameroonian royalty on his father’s side, began studying acting at 16 at the Actors Mobile Theater Studio, according to Variety, and by 19 he had made his professional theater debut in “Othello.”
He often played police officers, criminals and other hardened personalities onscreen. He received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for his portrayal of President Idi Amin, the murderous Ugandan strongman, in the 1976 television movie “Raid on Entebbe.”
Homicide: Life on the Street,” an ex-convict in the 1978 film “Blue Collar” and a prison guard in “Brubaker,” a 1980 movie about a prison farm also starring Robert Redford.
He even played a pair of Bond villains in the 1973 film “Live and Let Die”: both a corrupt Caribbean dictator and that character’s alter ago, a drug trafficker named Mr. Big.
In 1993, Mr. Kotto, who stood 6-foot-3, told The Baltimore Sun that such roles presented a distorted image of what he was really like.
“I want to try to play a much more sensitive man. A family man,” he told the newspaper. “There is an aspect of Black people’s lives that is not running or jumping.”
The Running Man,” a dystopian 1987 thriller set in what was then the near future (2019), Mr. Kotto played a resistance fighter alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in a fascist version of America.