Perhaps the most famous and beloved henchman in the James Bond series, Richard Kiel played the role of Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker. Since then, he has appeared in over a dozen films such as Pale Rider and Happy Gilmore. Most recently, the seven-foot, two-inch actor's likeness can be seen in the new James Bond video game, Everything or Nothing as well as on the cover of his autobiography, Making it BIG at the Movies. Universal Exports recently caught up with Mr. Kiel to ask him about his experience with the role and life since. |
What was the best thing about being a henchman in the James Bond series?
After 17 years of being a successful working actor who did 50 or so TV shows and dozens of movies including A-list movies such as The Longest Yard and the Silver Streak I found that I was suddenly a world wide success and on the cover of People Magazine. I wouldn't say that this happened just because I was a Bond Henchman but rather because of the chemistry between Roger Moore, the director Lewis Gilbert and myself. In the 17 years I was an actor before Bond I got lots of good practice making a successful experience out of roles where I talked a lot and most important roles where I didn't talk at all. I had learned how to utilize my size to advantage and to talk through my facial expressions and by using pantomime. I was able to put all this experience to good use and Lewis Gilbert was very open to my ad lib actions and suggestions.
What was the most challenging aspect of playing a Bond henchman?
To be entertaining by being scary and at the same time being human by showing qualities such as frustration and determination. A very successful director once told me that a good actor would be able to show the audience through his eyes what was going on in his head. When Roger Moore as James Bond points out to me that Dolly and I are not going to fit into his perfect society of only beautiful people I tried to convey through my eyes and expression that I figured out that it was time to change sides.
Jaws is often considered the most popular henchmen in the entire Bond series. How has your association with the character changed your life?
Well it is seldom that an actor gets a boxed figure made in the honor of his character (although I had one made for the "Kanamit" character I played in the Twilight Zone a year ago as well) or gets flown over First Class with his wife to attend a "40 Years of James Bond" luncheon at Pinewood Studios. Or finds himself doing at least a half dozen TV interviews a year because of the interest in his character in two movies. It has enabled my wife Diane and I to go on a lot of wonderful "paid" vacations all around the world starting with the promotion of the two films 25 - 27 years ago and continuing to this day. Last year I was in England, France, Germany, Holland, Japan and Scotland doing promotions having to do with Bond or the new Bond Video Game Everything or Nothing.
Which film was more enjoyable to make or be a part of: The Spy Who Loved Me or Moonraker? Why?
That's a tough question as "Spy" took us to Egypt where we filmed at the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Karnak. Quite an experience!
In addition we filmed of course at Pinewood Studios which was a delightful experience and at the Calle de Volpe Hotel in Sardenia. During the filming of "Spy" we only had one child (who plays the little boy on the beach who points to the Lotus car as it comes out of the water) and that made it easier on Diane and I.
Of course, filming Moonraker in Paris and Rio wasn't shabby but I think it was harder for Diane as we then had our daughter and she gave birth to our second son at the American Hospital in France. We still had some great experiences including bring her mother and step-father over to stay with us and to help Diane.
I would say that the two experiences were equally enjoyable for me and because I now knew the crew and Roger quite well it made doing a second film more comfortable for me.
What is your opinion on Jaws and Dolly's relationship at the end of Moonraker?
Jaws is discovered by Dolly in the wreckage of the tram station in Rio and they have about 5 seconds to be attracted to each other and fall in love. Although the lighting on my teeth (causing them to sparkle when I smile back at Dolly) and the Romeo and Juliet music helped to accomplish quite a bit of that effect it was a little rushed out of necessity as it was a sub-plot and not the major storyline.
I must say that I had a similar experience when I met my wife Diane while filming The Longest Yard in Georgia. We met at a dance club on the weekend and were both watching the people dance when our eyes met and although I didn't have metal teeth nor the Romeo and Juliet theme going on the sparks still flew as they do to this day.
I was able to use that real-life experience in Moonraker and for most people it worked well as Moonraker entertained more ticket holders than Spy and for a long time it was the most successful Bond film in recent years only to be surpassed by GoldenEye which probably had the biggest publicity launch ever accomplished by MGM/UA for a film up to that time.
I think that the fact that the audience never saw what happened to Jaws and Dolly made them a little unsatisfied with the ending as they weren't sure what happened to the two characters. In the movie this is covered by dialogue where we find out that two survivors were picked up "a short blonde and a tall man." I might not have this dialogue down exact which shows that exposition through dialogue doesn't work as well as a picture of what happened which they say "Is worth a thousand words."
Because of the lack of seeing what happened to Jaws and Dolly people have forgotten the dialogue that explains this and are somewhat confused in their memory of the event. In retrospect it may have been better to have shown them being rescued but the movie was already quite long as it was.
Which villain was better: Stromberg or Drax? Why?
That's literally a tossup! I have seen reviews from fans who felt that Curt Jurgens underplayed his role of Stromberg but for my taste it made him that much more menacing. He had lots of juicy dialogue which he could deliver with dry wit. In my case I couldn't afford to underplay my role as it all had to be conveyed with expression and mime.
What is your favourite Jaws scene in either movie?
It's tough to pick one out so I'll give you a few of my favorites. The scene in
the train where Barbara Bach (playing Anya) opens the door of the closet and
sees me for the first time with those teeth grinning at her and accompanied
by the jolting shriek of the train whistle sets up the audience to be in
great fear of Jaws. This makes all that happens next very entertaining as
007 has to use the electricity from the broken lamp stuck in Jaws teeth to
extricate himself enough to kick me through the window. After all this scary
drama my brushing off my clothes and straightening my tie give some comic
relief to one of the most tense moments in both films.
My other favorite scene as Jaws is where I am chasing Bond and Holly on the
tram and Lois Chiles as Holly exclaims: "Who's that?" Roger's reply as Bond
says it all about my character when he glibly responds: "His name is Jaws,"
to which Lois responds with an incredulous: "You know him?" and Roger's Bond
replies: "Not socially, he kills people."
This describes Jaws perfectly as before meeting Dolly he is a paid henchman
who does his job very well for whoever hires him be it Stromberg or Drax and
James Bond's assessment is valid as well as humorous.
What sort of relationship did you have with the cast and crew of your two movies, particularly Roger Moore?
I got to be great friends with the stuntman Bob Simmons who was instrumental in persuading Cubby Broccolli to film an alternate ending to Spy where I survive the shark.
Bob seemed to see the potential of the character before it was as obvious to the rest of the crew although I know now that Lewis was planning to use some of what Roger and I did in the film rather than as outtakes. Lewis had a keen sense of humour being from a vaudeville family and laughed his head off when I pretended to drop the big block on my foot in a final rehearsal. I was jumping up and down holding my foot in one hand like I was in excrucitiating pain and people were yelling for someone to "call the nurse," and others were hollering, "call an ambulance." Lewis enjoyed my antics and decided to film it that way although we did a more subtle version that was the one chosen to be in the film.
In regards to Roger Moore I got along very well with him. We both have a
good sense of humor and we managed to use it in our scenes together. Roger has a heart bigger than his ego and this was important if Jaws was going to be entertaining. Some stars would have objected to what Jaws was doing as they would consider it "scene stealing." Roger was too much of a team player to care whether Jaws was being entertaining in a scene. I believe that he felt that if the audience liked it and it was good for the film that this was more important than his being the only one to be shine in a scene.
We have remained friends over the years and I was greatly surprised when the
London Lunch Club recently acknowledged me by throwing a dinner in my honor
and Roger and his wife Christina showed up along with Michael Wilson and
Barbara Broccolli. I was even more surprised when Roger narrated the video
clips of my film roles. This meant a great deal to me and made Roger an even
bigger person in my eyes as he certainly didn't have to take the time to do
this for me but he did.
There is no question in my mind that the chemistry between Bond and Jaws
made Jaws the success that he became. Without Roger smiling at me and then
looking up so I would follow his look only to be then snapped up by my teeth
by the huge magnet followed by Roger's line: "How does that grab you." Jaws
would have been boring.
Or the look on 007's face when he rubs his hand after hitting me in the
bollocks which is is so effective as it tends to make Bond vulnerable for a
change. Many actors would have not done that because of their ego and it was
these kinds of things that made the Jaws character a success.
Roger and I have something in common as we have both had causes in our life
which are as important as anything else and we enjoy being involved in them
as it gives us a sense of accomplishment as we feel we have left something
behind besides entertainment for millions.
To be loved is important as is having a sense of accomplishment but to love
is equally important in life especially when it is combined with taking
action to do something for someone else to make their life better. I admire
Roger Moore as an actor but even more for his making an impact upon the
world through his efforts helping UNICEF.
I believe that it was this same spirit of giving and his humility even while
being such a huge star that caused fans to like Roger Moore so much in his
role as Bond.
Excluding yourself, who is your favorite henchman in the Bond series?
I would have to say Odd Job as he was quite memorable in his own way. Robert Shaw as Red Grant would be a close second.
What was your favourite musical score, The Spy Who Loved Me or
It's hard to top Carly Simon's theme song "Nobody does it better." I liked it better than the theme song for Moonraker which was somewhat reminiscent of Goldfinger, but without the hard edge.”
What reactions do people have today when they see you on the
They are usually shocked to say the least. I guess a lot of them think I live on a space station as they commonly ask: "What are you doing here?" If I'm in an airport I usually say, "Catching a plane like you!" Because they are usually still in shock to meet me this usually goes over their head.
Are you still a Bond fan today? If so, what do you think of the new films?
Of course, once a Bond fan, always a Bond fan. I think that they have only gotten better. Fans take a lot of this for granted as it is easy to be a Monday morning quarterback.
Can you describe your experience working on the new video game, Everything or Nothing?
Well, in reality there wasn't a lot for me to do as Jaws is the strong silent type so my role has been more of helping to promote and launch the game all over the world.
What do you think of the Jaws character in the game?
He's very well done and the likeness is uncanny. The best parts about the game for me are the unique scenes which Jaws is in, as they are not copycat scenes but rather new and fresh ones and it's like a new movie.
Which part of your performance as Jaws would you have changed, if you
had the opportunity?
That's like asking me if I could be any height I wanted what height would I choose. There are some things you can't change so why even think about it.
Which is your favorite fight scene involving Jaws and Bond from either film?
It would be a tie between the fight on the train and the one on the tram in Rio. Both were extremely well rehearsed and the British technicians did a fabulous job in making me look great in both as they used min-trampolines, cables to help me lift Roger and slam him against the ceiling and articulated dummies to simulate Bond so I could really slam him over and over until they got it perfect.
It is said that once you are in a Bond film, the experience will never leave you. Did you ever have any doubts about playing Jaws or being involved in the series?
I had of course absolutely no qualms about being in the Bond films as I loved them and knew it was a great opportunity. I was a little put off by Cubby's description of the character as he said: He will have metal teeth either like tools or like a shark and he kills people with them. My first reaction was this is a monster part! I had visions of this quickly becoming boring especially after the shock and newness of the character wore off and the audience became dulled his being a stone faced killer that uses his teeth.
That was my first quick though but I also realized that just being in a Bond film was of great vale so I decided to take a chance and act on my instincts saying to Mr. Broccoli that I though the role required and actor whether I played it or someone else did (Cubby had mentioned that they had already interviewed the guy inside the Darth Vader suit) as I felt they were thinking big body and not an actor. I said that if I were to play the role that I would want to give the killer some characteristics that would make him more interesting and keep his killing with his teeth from going over the top. Cubby appreciated that and invited me to his house to meet his family and the writer.
What is your opinion on Jaws' transformation into Bond's ally at the end of Moonraker?
This came about because the director Lewis Gilbert's grandson had said: "Grandpa, I like Jaws, why does he have to be a bad guy?" I believe that like the directors grandson, a lot of fans liked Jaws and the director and the producers realized this and wanted to take advantage of that fact.
Now a lot of the die hard Bond fans who take the Bond movies all too
seriously and that I would compare with "Trekkies" did not like Jaws,
especially in Moonraker, but these same fans liked the more serious Bond films with Timothy Dalton too so although they may be right as they wanted more serious Bond films the old saying is the proof is in the pudding and Moonraker went down well with the general public selling tons of tickets and the more serious Bond films had less boxoffice appeal. I believe that for most people the success of the Bond films comes from it's pure entertainment
quality and that most people view it as a fantasy with some edge of reality.
They look forward to being taken to exotic locations and seeing lots of
beautiful women as well as some unique gadgets. They do not take the films so seriously and enjoy the dry humor that has always been in the Bond films.”
If Jaws had not turned to the side of good, do you think Jaws would have returned and would you have done it if offered?
I do not think that Jaws would have returned for a third film whether he was a good or bad guy in Moonraker as I think that the character had been fully utilized. To bring him back again would definitely have been overkill and I am sure the producers and writers realized this.
Recently there have been discussions that Jaws should return. Do you think this would be a good idea and would you ever consider putting on the metal teeth again?
I think that the time is right for Jaws to do a cameo. The fact that he is still popular enough to be in the video game and to be the subject of a boxed Moonraker figure attests to his endurance through the years as a Bond icon. Bringing him back however would be a big challenge for the writers and producers because he turned to the side of Bond and also because I am presently handicapped due to an auto accident and can no longer do what Jaws does in the current video game.
There are a lot of ways that Jaws could return in an entertaining way but I will leave that up to the writers. Since my accident I have played a very entertaining character in the highly successful Adam Sandler movie Happy Gilmore. They used my size to advantage and worked with my handicap by letting me lean on things and people in a way that still worked and they even made it look like I was running after "Shooter" by pushing me on a dolly and shooting me with other people running along side me with the whole thing overcranked to give that slow-mo bone crunching football play effect. Fans are always asking "When are you coming back?"
The events of the past year and all the interest in Jaws in the media make it seem to me that this is the right time and maybe the only time that this would be possible.
Finally, can you describe your relationship with Albert R. Broccoli?
Cubby Broccolli and his entire family made Diane and I feel like we were and are part of their greater Bond family. When we were promoting the two Bond films the Broccolis went with us much of the time and we enjoyed the same hotels and great meals along with them. When I stayed over to film the alternate scene where I lived after all the other scenes in "Spy" had been filmed it meant that Diane would be flying home in her ninth month of pregnancy. Cubby flew a doctor with us just in case she may have tried to go into labor and the doctor got off the plane and flew back to London just as soon as we landed. Suffice it to say that the Broccoli family treated us no differently then they would their own son or daughter and that is saying a lot in the movie business as very few producers are that caring. I think this has a lot to do with the success of the films as they care about their audiences as well and want to give them their moneys worth.
A word from the interviewer:
On behalf of Universal Exports, I would love to thank Mr. Richard Kiel for giving up so much of his time to participate in this great interview. I send my kindest regards to him and his family. I would also like to thank Ms. Rosemary Flores, the administrator of the Richard Kiel Fan Club, for all her hard work and trouble she has gone to, in order to compile this interview. The very talented Mr. Kiel has also just written his autobiography, Making It BIG In The Movies. Signed copies of the book are available from his Web site. I would suggest buying it from there as it is the same price as elsewhere and comes signed by Richard Kiel himself.
Questions written by Adam Farrington-Williams, Jay Harlow and Brandon and Harrison Diamond; edited by Greg Goodman.
Richard Kiel Media: