Born on September 13, 1939 in Detroit, Michigan, Richard Dawson Kiel was an American actor, voice artist, and comedian of extraordinary stature. His height and features were a result of a hormonal condition known as acromegaly. As an adult, he stood 7-feet and 1.5 inches (217 cm) tall, although in his later 2002 autobiography, "Making It Big in the Movies," he confessed to claiming to be 7 feet, 2 inches (218.44 cm) because it was easier to remember. His incredible size parlayed him into becoming an actor in both television and the movies. He made his acting debut in the TV-series, "Laramie," and in "The Phantom," an unaired TV-pilot.
Before breaking into film and television, Kiel worked as a nightclub bouncer and as a cemetery plot salesman before playing a caveman in the science fiction classic, "Eegah," in 1962. He also produced, co-wrote and starred in "The Giant of Thunder Mountain." He had several roles in the "Wild, Wild West" TV-series; in one episode, he showed exceptional acting talent as the outcast deformed son of a family.
During the Sixties, Kiel starred in numerous episodes showcasing his abilities as both a dramatic and comedic actor. He starred in "The Rifleman," "Laramie," "The Twilight Zone," "I Dream Of Jeannie," "Honey West," Gilligan's Island, "The Monkees," "Daniel Boone," "Emergency!" "Man from U.N.C.L.E." and through the Seventies and Eighties, "Starsky & Hutch," "The Night Stalker," "Land of the Lost," "The Fall Guy" and "Simon & Simon."
Between acting roles, Kiel worked as a night school math instructor in Burbank, California, but he did not gain complete fame until the James Bond franchise when where he played the assassin known as Jaws in "The Spy Who Loved Me" and "Moonraker." During his cable car stunt scenes in "Moonraker," a stunt double was used to replace Kiel because his acrophobia (fear of heights) made it impossible for him to be filmed on the top of a cable car over 2000 feet above the ground. He would also go on to reprise the character of Jaws in several James Bond video games. Both Kiel and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger were also the original choices to portray the title character in "The Incredible Hulk" in 1978. However, Schwarzenegger was turned down due to his height, and despite having filmed sequences for the pilot, Kiel was let go from the role for Lou Ferrigno who had the appropriate mass for the character. Although most of Kiel's footage was reshot, he still appears in surviving lake scenes. He also appeared in the movies, "The Longest Yard," "Silver Streak," "Force 10 from Navarone," "Pale Rider" and "Tangled."
In 1992, Kiel suffered a severe head injury in a car accident, which affected his balance and required him to use a cane to support himself. His cane appears with him in his scene in the movie, "Happy Gilmore," with Adam Sandler. He also co-authored "Kentucky Lion," a biography of the abolitionist Cassius Marcellus Clay. After battling alcoholism for several years, he became a born-again Christian to help him overcome the sickness. He passed away from coronary artery disease in Fresno, California on September 10, 2014, three days before his 75th birthday. He was survived by his wife Diane, children and grandchildren.