The actor’s wife, Tessie Sinahon, issued a statement on Facebook Monday night announcing news of his passing. She did comment on a cause of death.
“I’m saddened and still in shocked of the passing of my husband Yaphet of 24 years. He died last night around 10:30pm Philippine time,” she wrote. “This is a very painfall [sic] moment for me to inform you all fans, friends and family of my husband.”
She continued by noting the many things Kotto apparently still wanted to accomplish prior to his death.
“We still have a lot of plans honey that we discussed you have a lot of interviews waiting and you have movie offers like G.I. Joe and the movie of Tom Cruise and others. You still have plan to release your book and build a religious organization based on Yogananda’s Teachings,” she wrote.
Thessa concluded: “You played a villain on some of your movies but for me you’re a real hero and to a lot of people also. A good man, a good father, a good husband and a decent human being, very rare to find. One of the best actor in Hollywood a Legend. Rest in Peace Honey, I’m gonna miss you everyday, my bestfriend,my rock.I love you and you will always be in my heart. Till we meet again!”
Kotto played dual roles in the 1973 Bond film “Live and Let Die” portraying the drug-pushing kingpin Mr. Big who turns out to be the alter-ego of Caribbean dictator Dr. Kananga opposite Roger Moore. He was the first Black man to portray a Bond villain and confessed to The Independent in a 2015 interview that the studio banned him from promoting the film for fear of a negative public reception to his race.
“They didn’t play my character up,” he told the outlet at the time. “That hurt me a lot, man. I went through a lot of goddamn emotional hell because they were afraid people would be angry that a black guy was not being Sidney Poitier. I was the opposite of everything he created.”
He also famously played technician Dennis Parker in the 1979 science fiction horror “Alien” and co-starred opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1987 action film “The Running Man.” In addition to his movie roles, Kotto went on to have some great television acclaim on the NBC series “Homicide: Life on the Street” from 1993 until 1999. He earned an Emmy nomination in 1977 for his role as President Idi Amin Jr. in the TV film “Raid on Entebbe.”
According to Variety, Kotto was born in New York City in 1939 and kicked off his acting career at age 16 at the Actors Mobile Theater Studio. He made his professional debut in “Othello” at age 19 and continued on Broadway before getting some film projects in the 1960s such as “Nothing But a Man” and “The Thomas Crown Affair.”
He is survived by his wife and six children.