RIP Yaphet Kotto, Star of Alien, James Bond, and More

Yaphet Kotto as Parker in Alien.
Yaphet Kotto as Parker in Alien.
Image: Disney

Yaphet Kotto passed away yesterday at the age of 81. Best known for his roles as Parker in Ridley Scott’s first Alien movie and the villain Dr. Kananga in Live and Let Die, Roger Moore’s first outing as James Bond, the actor also appeared in The Running Man, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Homicide: Life on the Street, and more.


But perhaps his bigger legacy is the roles he didn’t play. Kotto is said to have turned down the part of Lando Calrissian in The Empire Strikes Back, but also Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation. His work speaks for itself, but he helped shape a massive part of sci-fi pop culture beyond that, even if inadvertently.

Born in 1939—and descended from Cameroonian royalty through his father—Kotto started his career on Broadway in New York, but transitioned to Hollywood and movies in his early 20s. While he was never a household name, rest assured Yaphet Kotto was the real deal:

Kotto is survived by his wife and six children. No cause of death has been reported.


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Rob Bricken was the Editor of io9 from 2016-18, the creator of the poorly named but fan-favorite news site Topless Robot, and now writes nerd stuff for many places, because it's all he's good at.



I think he plays probably the best and most developed character in Alien, besides maybe Ripley (and in some ways even more than Ripley), and a lot of that is due to the way Kotto played it.

He’s the one who really sells the idea of “Space Truckers” that the film was going for. He’s definitely the most animated of the bunch; while most of the characters are largely one note (the stoic Dallas and Brett, the panicky Lambert, the cold and calculated Ash), Parker seems like the most “human” of the crew.

His performance is iconic and memorable, and he was a powerhouse who will be missed.