Remembering Richard Kiel

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 16 September 2014.

My Kiel Autograph

In pop culture, it’s funny how the time of your introduction to long running franchises gives you a sense of connection to a particular era of that television or film series. Although I watched from behind the sofa the never ending repeats of Tom Baker era Doctor Who episodes at half past five on Channel 2, my initial taste of first run Time Lord adventures starred Sylvester McCoy as the seventh Doctor. Although generally maligned, and probably the least popular of the incarnations, Sylvester McCoy is my Doctor.

The same with James Bond. My cinematic introduction to 007 was at the now defunct Hoyts Roxy at Parramatta. Sitting alongside my grandmother, I was dazzled by the smooth talking exploits of…err…Timothy Dalton. Sure, there are higher points in the franchise, but the Welsh actor is my James Bond.

I can’t say that the same phenomenon has occurred for Bond villains. By the late eighties, the bad guys were less cartoony and certainly less memorable. I can therefore only assume that my affinity for the metal mouthed giant Jaws came from repeat TV airings of Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me, most likely on Channel 10 and ushered in by Bill Collins.

Richard Kiel, the 7’2” actor who portrayed Jaws, sadly passed away last week. I fortunately had the pleasure of meeting Mr Kiel when he visited Sydney for the Supanova Pop Culture Expo in May.

From all appearances, Kiel was not in the best of health. He struggled to move from his motorised scooter to the signing table. I had a brief chat with him and throughout he could barely lift his head to make eye contact with me. I had brought along a vintage 1979 Scanlens Moonraker sticker set for signing and he had a lot of trouble manipulating the card with his huge hands. Apparently a car accident in 1992 had made his mobility very difficult. Sadly, this gentle giant appeared to be succumbing to gravity.

When Kiel attended a panel alongside one-off Aussie Bond George Lazenby, he rode into the room on his scooter and stayed there throughout the whole session. However, once engaged in telling tales from his Bond days and beyond, his face lit up.

Kiel proudly told the audience how he had received a special watch from the Broccoli family and MGM to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Bond film franchise. He spoke very fondly of Roger Moore and their ongoing friendship, as well as regaled us in some stories of their off-screen antics.

Happy Gilmore

I had no idea that Kiel had such a distinguished career, with over 50 TV series appearances and dozens of film credits to his name. One of his final on-screen appearances was as Mr Larson in the Adam Sandler comedy, Happy Gilmore. Kiel described how the majority of his shots are from the waist up, and that the only 2 scenes with him standing have him leaning on something.

Although never surpassing his role in Bond, Hollywood has lost a beloved icon. There may be many James Bonds but there will only be one Jaws.

Published in: on October 5, 2014 at 14:35  Leave a Comment  
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