RIP, Yaphet Kotto

I remember first seeing him in Live and Let Die playing the villain. It was an awful, disappointing movie, but not because of him. Because I remembered his odd name, I noticed when he showed up elsewhere – in Alien six years later and as Idi Amin in TV’s Raid on Entebbe. He sort of dropped off my radar for years, then suddenly popped up in films like The Star Chamber and The Puppet Masters

He was 81

I recall him getting a push for playing Amin in Raid on Entebbe. I also recall him being in Live and Let Die, but no details, and yeah, disappointing movie. He made it to 81, not bad for these days.

He did seven seasons of Homicide: Life of on the Streets.

Never watched that show. Good to know, though.

I wish I could find it on the internet, but I remember seeing Rick Moranis telling a funny anecdote about appearing with Yaphet Kotto on “The Dini Petty Show” (a Canadian daytime talk show of no great distinction) and admitting they were both there just to get a free trip to Toronto (where Kotto’s girlfriend lived at the time).

Aw, geez.

I think the first thing I saw him in was Alien, but I was 12 in 1979. I also remember him from Michael Moore’s TV show, where he tried to hail a cab in Manhattan (somewhere on Amsterdam, IIRC), and couldn’t get one. But cabs kept pulling over for a white guy, who happened to be a convicted violent felon. He was appearing in Homicide at the time of the show.

He must have had a good sense of humor to be willing to do that.


Here’s a clip from the very fine Midnight Run. Kotto wasn’t outstanding in the movie (Charles Grodin overshadowed everybody, including DeNiro), but he was a memorable presence. And from the clip it looks like he was a very large dude.

It was a very good show especially in the early years. The origin of Det John Munch who went on to be on 10 different shows. Andre Braugher got to show why he is a national treasure. It’s the first time I noticed future Oscar winner Melissa Leo. Yaphet Kotto was very good as Lt Al Giardello. The show is based on a non-fiction book by David Simon who spent a year with the Baltimore Homicide Division. He produced and helped write the show then went on to make The Wire.

It also had the best response to Bond announcing himself:

Bond: My name is…
Mr. Big: Names is for tombstones, baby!

He was also the first black actor to play the Moorish title role in a film adaptation of Othello. I have not seen it but now I’m going to have to track it down.


Sad to hear. I really enjoyed his work.
I think of him most from:
Midnight Run
Live and Let Die

I remember him from Running Man too.

He was at least raised Jewish.

Anyone else see Blue Collar? It is an outstanding 1978 Richard Pryor movie in which I was introduced to - and have never forgotten - Yaphet Kotto and Harvey Keitel.

Seek it out if you have not seen it.


Perfect foil in Midnight Run. Good night Sweet Prince. RIP

First time we ever saw him was ALIEN. He stole every scene he was in.

Aw, man. He was great in “Homicide”.

I first spotted him in an old TV movie called Night Chase with David Janssen.

He and Harry Dean Stanton were so perfect together.

Seems tailor-made:


Yes it does. That’s from the TV movie that served as the finale.