Between these stage appearances, two film roles in the 1970s raised Mr Kotto’s profile in particular. The first was in 1973 in Live and Let Die, Roger Moore’s debut as James Bond. Mr. Kotto played his main enemy, a dual role in which he was both a corrupt Caribbean dictator and the drug dealer Mr. Big.
1979 came “Alien”, Ridley Scott’s space horror classic, in which Mr. Kotto’s character Parker was part of a spaceship crew that fought against an evil alien creature.
“The combination of ‘Live and Let Die’ and ‘Alien’ for my career was like wham, bam!” He told The Canadian Press in 2003, adding that these completely different roles showed his versatility. “I think the only other person who has that combination is Harrison Ford.”
Yaphet Frederick Kotto was born in Harlem on November 15, 1939 and grew up in the Bronx. His father, he told the Baltimore Jewish Times in 1995, was from Cameroon and jumped as a merchant on a ship that landed in New York. His mother is of Panamanian and West Indian descent. His father had adopted Judaism and his mother was a Roman Catholic. The couple separated when Mr. Kotto was a child and he was raised by his maternal grandparents.
Mr Kotto said his career path was determined by a fateful trip to the cinema.
“One day when I was around 16 I went to this theater and showed ‘On the Waterfront’. I saw Marlon Brando for the first time,” he told the Orange County Register of California in 1994. It was like someone punched me in the stomach. It was like someone crashed pelvis in both ears. I was blown out of the theater. I knew from that moment that I wanted to be an actor. “