Richard Kiel was bigger than life and not just in terms of his film, television and voice work, which equalled 78 credits to be exact, but also in terms of his very nature; the news that this icon was gone at the age of 74, was sad and sobering. After years of watching the actor on screens big and small, this reporter finally got to meet him at the Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas this year. It was a real surprize as the actor was not part of the “Trek” verse and he was not included on the long list of “special” guests.
After introductions were made and an appeal made for a couple of Instagram photos for the Guardian Liberty Voice readers, the gentle giant took time to have a chat and explain why he was at a Trekker or Trekkie convention. The 74 year-old performer had been a permanent fixture at the Star Trek convention for the past 14 years. The con’s organizers welcomed the gentle giant’s presence because he was popular with fans despite never having been in a Star Trek production.
Kiel looked to have stills from every film or television show he had been in over his long career. He also had copies of his self-penned autobiography Making It Big in the Movies available for purchase. While there were not long queues to Richard’s table in the “Vendors Hall” the fans who discovered his unannounced presence were filled with excitement and delight. As the days passed more fans came by to see the actor.
Most if not all paid for the opportunity to have their photo taken with him and many purchased personally autographed stills from his many performances. It was Kiel’s role as Bond villain Jaws that resonated with most fans. This giant 7 foot 2 inch tall steel toothed baddie that threatened 007 in not one but two films, although Jaws did switch sides in the latter film, Moonraker, which upset quite a number of fans, was wildly popular with Bond fans.
That Richard Kiel was an icon goes without debate, that he was bigger than life is also a non-arguable statement. His passing at 74 is almost unbelievable, especially to those who met the man in real life. Mr. Kiel was a giant and whether he was seated in a chair or an electric scooter, he dwarfed those around him.
On August 2, 2014 at the Star Trek Convention at the Rio Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas, the actor was seated at a long table with actor Don Stark (That ’70s Show, Star Trek: First Contact) and artist Alec Egan, son of Kate “Kathryn Janeway” Mulgrew. For the entirety of the four day event Kiel stayed at this table only leaving on his scooter to go home at the days end or for short breaks. The man had time for every fan who stopped by whether they purchased anything or not.
Those who visited his table would be treated to the sight of stills (photos) from his various roles. He spent a long amount of time speaking to this writer about how much he appreciated the support from the organizers of the Star Trek conventions for allowing him to attend the functions for years. Kiel would move the photographs deftly and gently with his huge hands while he spoke of his roles. He agreed without hesitation to having his photo taken “for the readers.”
It was an amazed writer who passed Richard’s table the next day to discover that the actor had taken time to read the Guardian Liberty Voice article submitted the night before which mentioned Mr. Kiel and talked of his being the “best kept secret” of the convention. Not only did this gentle giant thank the writer for his words, but also recognised him out of the hundreds of people who had stopped by his table to see and talk with him during the convention.
Such generosity speaks volumes of this late actor’s genuine nature. Sir Roger Moore, who saw his former co-star only days before his death, was said to be distraught at the news. He also was quoted as saying that Kiel was big man with an even “bigger heart.” Anyone who met Kiel would most definitely agree with Sir Roger’s statement.
The bigger than life actor Richard Kiel who achieved icon status as the Bond villain Jaws, died yesterday at the age of 74. This gentle giant who caught the imagination of film fans the world over is gone, but to those who worked with him, or even just met him for a brief time, he will not be forgotten. Just missed.
By Michael Smith