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Yaphet Kotto Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (1) | Trivia (19) | Personal Quotes (8)

Overview (3)

Date of Birth 15 November 1939New York City, New York, USA
Birth NameYaphet Frederick Kotto
Height 6' 4" (1.93 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Yaphet Kotto was born on November 15, 1939 in New York City, New York, USA as Yaphet Frederick Kotto. He is an actor and writer, known for Alien (1979), Homicide: Life on the Street (1993) and Live and Let Die (1973). He has been married to Tessie Sinahon since July 12, 1998. He was previously married to Antoinette Pettyjohn and Rita Ingrid Dittman.

Spouse (3)

Tessie Sinahon (12 July 1998 - present)
Antoinette Pettyjohn (29 January 1975 - ?) (divorced) (2 children)
Rita Ingrid Dittman (1962 - 1975) (divorced) (3 children)

Trade Mark (1)

Often plays police detectives and military officers

Trivia (19)

Oldest son, Fred, is a very successful San José Police Dept. California (USA) officer.
He is the son of a Cameroonian crown prince.
Has a Bay Area hardcore punk band named after him.
Moved from Littleton, Colorado to Canada, because he felt it would be safer to live there. Two years after moving, he saw the news coverage on Columbine, and recognized some of the kids fleeing the school.
Both parents are African Jews. In an interview he said being fully Black and Jewish gave other kids even more reason to pick on him growing up in New York City. However, to this day, he remains a devout, practicing Jew.
Campaigned for Steve Forbes during his bid for the Republican nomination for the Presidency in the 2000 primaries.
Turned down the role of Lando Calrissian in 'Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back' (1980). He feared that Lando would be killed in the movie, and that he would be forever typecast.
Along with his wife, Tessie, they operate an artists retreat resort in Southern Leyte, Philippines called "The Running Man Institute," which was founded in 2001 and is focused on working with people in the entertainment industry to build their creativity, as well as to relax and read up about holistic health.
His father, Njoki Manga Bell, was the great-grandson of King Alexander Bell, who ruled the Douala region of Cameroon in the late 19th century, before the nation fell into the hands of Germany and, later, France and Britain. Fleeing the Germans, Manga Bell (who had converted to Judaism in Cameroon) emigrated to Harlem in the 1920s and changed his name to Abraham Kotto (the surname is from a relative).
Yaphet means beautiful in Hebrew.
His parents divorced when he was 3.
Although he didn't enjoy filming Midnight Run, the character of Agent Alonzo Mosley remains his favorite. He later played the same role for the film Witless Protection.
Within a week of the divorce from his first wife Rita, he married Antoinette Pettyjohn.
Spends the majority of his free time living in the Philippines.
He made guest appearances on both of the longest running prime time dramas in US television history: Gunsmoke (1955) and Law & Order (1990).
Resides in Baltimore, Maryland [August 2012]
Along with Richard Belzer, Kyle Secor, Clark Johnson and Sharon Ziman, he is one of only five actors to appear in both the first and last episodes of Homicide: Life on the Street (1993): Homicide: Life on the Street: Gone for Goode (1993) and Homicide: Life on the Street: Forgive Us Our Trespasses (1999).
The first American actor to play a Bond villain.
He was the first black actor to play a Bond villain.

Personal Quotes (8)

I do have a favorite kind of director, which is the kind who allows me to create. Some haven't allowed me to create and I think by doing that they don't need an actor. They need a puppet.
(On Homicide: Life on the Street) I felt like I was a beggar doing Homicide. Begging to act. Begging for scenes. The writing was not obviously for me. It mainly focused on others. I went from a movie star playing leads to a bit player doing one line here and one line there. The rest of the week I would be hanging around Fells Point waiting to come in and do my one line. When I asked if they could write more for me to do, they'd say "You're doing great. You're the anchor of the show. "Anchor? I'm an actor, let me out!" I finally ended up writing for the show and gave myself something to do. Nine years of not acting.
(On filming Midnight Run) That was another difficult shoot. DeNiro is very spontaneous and it always helps to work with an artist like that. But Marty Brest! He shot so many takes of the scenes that I lost all joy in doing the film. It became hard and tedious work. Then he stopped eating during the shoot and became thinner and thinner each day, until he looked like a ghost behind the camera. When I met Marty at the Universal Studios with DeNiro, he looked healthy and strong, but as filming went on, he began to turn into someone you'd see in Dachau (Concentration Camp). It was weird. I got sick and for the whole of the film I had a fever and was under the weather for most of it. I was shocked when it came off so funny. It sure wasn't funny making it.
(On filming Alien) All of the scenes were challenging, particularly when you know you have to act against sets that were huge. The special effects determined where you could walk. Then you ask yourself how can you survive in acting against a monster. Will you be remembered? Ridley Scott was cool. He gave us a ninety-page outline detailing each of our characters and then he disappeared behind the camera. That's how he directs; he operates his own camera. The Alien script was tight. It was one of the best scripts I have ever read, so there was very little improve.
(On Live and Let Die) There were so many problems with that script. I was too afraid of coming off like Mantan Moreland. I had to dig deep in my soul and brain and come up with a level of reality that would offset the sea of stereotype crap that Tom Mankiewicz wrote that had nothing to do with the Black experience or culture. The way Kananga dies was a joke, and well, the entire experience was not as rewarding as I wanted it to be. There were a lot of pitfalls that I had to avoid, and I did.
(On when he decided to become an actor) I was roaming around Manhattan looking for work; in fact I had just come from an employment center in New York called 'Warren Street' where you can buy a part-time job for about ten bucks. On this particular day I didn't feel like delivering lunches, or pushing a dolly truck through lower Manhattan, so I went up to 42nd Street around Times Square, which at the time looked like a circus: porn theaters on one side of the street and b-movies on the other. I stopped before one particular theater and there were gangster photos all over the marquee. The movie must have cost about seventy-five cents, so I went in and sat down and saw On The Waterfront. I was so blown away after that day - it was Brando's performance that made me leave the streets to become an actor.
If you're a black actor, you really don't have too many choices. If you keep turning things down, you might as well hit the unemployment office. If I didn't sometimes take small parts in small films I wouldn't get to play anything, and I do have to eat.
[on Anthony Quinn and Across 110th Street (1972)] I can't stop laughing about Mr. Quinn. He wouldn't let me have anything. When I told him about how rough I had it as a kid in Harlem, he told me how he was hanged by the neck in Russia and left for dead. I told him I'd love to win an Academy award. "Don't bother, I'll lend you mine". "You don't know how rough it is coming up black in America". "Listen Yaphet, until you have been a Mexican, you don't know what rough means!" When we were shooting 110th in Harlem... I said to him: "Finally, I'm with my people". "Your people? My great-grandmother was a slave in Alabama!"

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