We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Bond: Tribute to Bond Villain Actor, Richard Kiel

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Is there any film franchise more iconic than James Bond? With 50 years of history and 25 movies to its credit, more than a few iconic moments and characters have come from the suave agent with a license to kill. With the recent passing of Rickard Kiel, the man who played classic James Bond villain, Jaws, in “Moonraker” and “The Spy Who Loved Me,” I thought it fitting and appropriate to reflect on the history and legacy of one of Bond’s most famous and iconic foes, a monster whose popularity among Bond fans comes second only to Goldfinger.

Jaws first appeared in “The Spy Who Loved Me,” which was the 10th Bond movie ever made, and the third starring Roger Moore. Though the film was inspired by the book of the same name, like most of the Bond films the writers made so many fundamental alterations to the plot that the two barely resemble each other. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the existence of the character Jaws, the iconic character was loosely based off of a description of a hoodlum named Horror in the book. During the design process, the creativity of the entire staff of the film was drawn out, with the producer coming up with the idea for the metal teeth and the costume designers coming up with the distinctive cog shape, out of concern for Richard Kiel’s comfort.

Always the henchman, never the mastermind, Jaws became far more iconic than his bosses Karl Stromberg, who sought to start World War III, and Hugo Drax, who essentially wanted the same thing. In fact, a lot of the plans of the early Bond villains were one-note and rather silly; who can forget Goldfinger’s desire to rob Fort Knox in order to destroy the world economy. Jaws had something that a lot of these characters lacked: he was actually scary. His size, steel teeth, and seeming invincibility coupled with a lack of dialogue, lent him a screen presence and threatening aura that the antagonists of the series had sorely lacked. His unique attributes forced Bond to think and use the environment to his advantage when fighting Jaws as opposed to a straight up fight, as was common to the films of the era. World War III is scary, but abstract, whereas an invincible giant is an immediate threat that audiences can sympathize with. Jaws didn’t have a greater scheme, and he didn’t set up elaborate traps for Bond. He simply wanted to kill him, and came very close on several occasions.

The impact of his popularity was immediate. Though he was supposed to die in “The Spy Who Loved Me,” he ended up being so popular with the filmmakers that they had to bring him back for “Moonraker.” In his second outing, Jaws was a much more comedic and sympathetic figure, eventually helping Bond vanquish Hugo Drax. However, despite this more comedic turn, he never lost his powerful presence and his popularity never faltered. Going into “For Your Eyes Only,” Kiel was initially cast to reprise his role for a third time, which would have made him one of the only villains to recur thrice in the entire franchise. Sadly, moviegoers would be deprived of the steel-toothed giant, as the director wanted to take the film in a more “realistic” and “serious” direction. Anyone who has seen “For Your Eyes Only” is laughing and shaking their head (SPOILER ALERT: The movie was very silly).

Sadly, moviegoers will never get to witness the return of one of the most popular characters in the Bond mythos, at the very least not with the original actor reprising his role. However, his legacy lives on, as the character has frequently appeared in subsequent novelizations of Bond’s adventures and his likeness has been used in nearly every Bond video game ever made. ,

Rest in peace, Jaws. You will be sorely missed.