How Richard Kiel Overcame Gigantism and Became a Legend

How Richard Kiel Overcame Gigantism and Became a Legend

Who was Richard Kiel?

The late American actor Richard Dawson Kiel was born in Detroit, Michigan USA, on 13 September 1939, meaning that Virgo was his zodiac sign. He appeared in 84 TV series and movies, and is perhaps still remembered best for portraying Jaws in the critically acclaimed 1979 action science fiction adventure movie “Moonraker”, directed by Lewis Gilbert, and which starred Roger Moore, Lois Chiles and Michael Lonsdale. It follows James Bond as he’s investigating the theft of a space shuttle, and the movie won one of its seven award nominations, including an Oscar nomination for Best Effects, Visual Effects.

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Education and early life

Richard was raised in Detroit by his parents, about whom he didn’t share many details because he respected their privacy; he didn’t speak about having siblings either, but there are rumors circulating the internet, claiming that Richard had a brother who killed himself in 2013, but this hasn’t been confirmed.

He was born with an excess of human growth hormone, which led him to develop gigantism, a condition in which the body’s height and weight are significantly above average. Richard and his family moved to Los Angeles, California when he was nine, and he eventually enrolled at Baldwin Park High School, matriculating in 1958.

Prior to making a name for himself in the film industry, Richard worked various jobs to financially support himself, including being a cemetery plot salesman, nightclub bouncer and door-to-door vacuum cleaner seller; he also worked at the William B. Ogden Radio Operational School as a mathematics instructor, from 1963 through 1965.

Roles in movies

Richard made his debut film appearance in the 1957 drama “The D. I.”, directed by Jack Webb, who also starred in it alongside Don Dubbins and Jackie Loughery; it follows a drill instructor who believes that he can turn a scared recruit into a Marine.

Some of Richard’s following movie roles were in the 1961 action “The Phantom”, the 1962 adventure fantasy comedy “Eegah” and the 1963 mystery horror thriller “House of the Damned”. What marked the ‘60s for him was perhaps playing Beany in the 1968 comedy “Skidoo”, directed by Otto Preminger, and which starred Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing and Frankie Avalon. It follows former mobster Tony Banks who’s been called out of retirement to kill another mobster ‘Blue Chips’ Packard.

Richard appeared in a couple of movies in the ‘70s, including the 1975 crime action “Flash and the Firecat”, the 1977 James Bond action adventure thriller “The Spy Who Loved Me”, and the 1979 science fiction fantasy mystery “The Humanoid”.

He portrayed Eddie in the 1981 comedy “So Fine”, written and directed by Andrew Bergman, and which starred Ryan O’Neal, Jack Warden and Mariangela Melato. It follows a man who’s invented bottomless pants, and which have made him wealthy. The remainder of the decade saw Richard appear in the 1984 action comedy “Mad Mission 3: Our Man from Bond Street”, the 1989 family fantasy “The Princess and the Dwarf” and the 1989 comedy “Think Big”.

He had only two film roles in the ‘90s, playing Mr. Larson in the hit 1996 sports comedy “Happy Gilmore” and Famous Big Guy with Silver Teeth in the 1999 action adventure comedy “Inspector Gadget”, while Richard appeared in only a single film in the 2000s: the 2004 short comedy “Mountain Dew”.

His two final roles were in the 2010 animated adventure comedy “Tangled” (voice role) and the 2012 action science fiction horror “The Awakened” – Richard passed away two years later.

Roles in TV series

Richard made his debut TV series appearance in the 1961 episode “Well of Doom” of the crime horror “Thriller”, and the same year saw him appear in an episode of the western “Laramie”, the crime adventure “King of Diamonds” and the family western “The Rifleman”.

From 1963 through 1966, he played Chinook Pete in the popular family adventure “Lassie”, which starred Lassie, Jon Provost and June Lockhart, and follows the Martin family and their dog Lassie; the series aired from 1954 through 1974 and won four of its 11 award nominations.

Richard’s following notable role came in 1975, when cast to play the main character Moose Moran in all the 14 episodes of the western “Barbary Coast”, created by Douglas Heyes, and which also starred William Shatner and Dave Turner. It follows the adventures of Cash Conover and Jeff Calbe in the 19-century Wild West – the series was nominated for a 1976 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction or Scenic Design.

Richard had three TV series roles in the ‘80s, appearing in an episode of the action adventure comedy “The Fall Guy”, the crime action “Simon & Simon”, and the family comedy “Out of This World”; he appeared in only one TV series prior to his death, portraying Mortimer in the 2002 episode “BloodHounds, Inc. #5: Fangs for the Memories” of the mystery “BloodHounds, Inc.”

Richard Kiel (1939–2014) would have been 82 today. He was a familiar face in movies like the James Bond series. See him on BARBARY COAST 5p ET weekends on getTV.What have you seen him in?

Posted by getTV on Monday, September 13, 2021

Other credits

Richard wrote and produced the 1963 short family movie “The Paul Bunyan Show”, and the 1990 family western movie “The Giant of Thunder Mountain”.

He voiced Jaws in the 2003 video game “James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing”.

Richard received special thanks for two episodes released in 2014, of the historical comedy series “Special Collector’s Edition” and the comedy “The Freddy Jenkins Show”.

Some of his final talk-show appearances were in “The Alan Titchmarsh Show”, “Soccer AM” and “This Morning”.

Awards and nominations

Richard was nominated for a 1980 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor, for his performance in “Moonraker”.

Love life and marriages Richard was married twice.

His first wife was non celebrity American Faye Daniels; the two exchanged vows in 1960 and divorced in 1973.

A year later, Richard married his second wife Diane Roger, who was only 5ft 1ins (1.54m) tall, with Richard being over 60cm taller than her; the two were together for four decades, until Richard’s death, and they had three sons and a daughter, as well as nine grandchildren.

He didn’t speak about other women whom he had perhaps dated, Richard was married to his second wife Diane Roger at the time of his death, and they had four children together.

Interesting facts and hobbies

Richard was a co-author of the biography “Kentucky Lion”, which covers the life of American politician, military officer and abolitionist Major-General Cassius Marcellus Clay; he also authored his autobiography “Making It Big in the Movies”, published in 2002.

Richard was once an alcoholic, and was only able to stop drinking after having become a born-again Christian.

He was invited to portray Chewbacca in the critically acclaimed 1977 action adventure fantasy movie “Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope”, but refused because of a low salary, and Chewbacca requiring a full costume.

Richard was afraid of heights, and couldn’t do some stunts which required him to be high above the ground, which forced the producers to hire stuntman Martin Grace, who was a foot or 30cms shorter than Richard, but still performed well and the audience wasn’t able to tell them apart in the films.

He was involved in a car accident in 1992 which serious affected his balance; Richard had to use a walking stick following the accident, and a battery-powered scooter if he was planning to go a bit further.

His initial career plan was to become a lawyer.

Richard was the owner of a movie production company.

Death, appearance and wealth

Richard was 74 when he died from a heart attack at St. Agnes Medical Center on 10 September 2014, three days shy of his 75th birthday; a week earlier, Richard had been admitted to the same hospital with a broken leg.

He had brown hair and eyes, was 7ft 2ins (2.18m) tall and weighed around 300lbs (135kgs); Richard’s net worth, at the time of his passing was estimated at over $500,000.

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