The late Richard Kiel (born Richard Dawson Kiel) was best known for his many film roles and his distinctive appearance. Kiel was born on September 13th, 1939; he was born with a condition called acromegaly, which causes an excess of growth hormones in the body. Kiel did not begin acting until he was in his early 20s. Before pursuing an acting career, Richard Kiel worked a number of various odd jobs, including a cemetery plot salesman and a security bouncer at a nightclub.
In the 1960s, however, Kiel finally got his big acting break with a serious of featured roles. He appeared in the film Eegah, which achieved cult-status after it was featured on two of the most popular ‘hosting’ shows of the era: Elvira’s Movie Macabre and Mystery Science Theater 3000. Two of his other films–the Phantom Planet and The Human Duplicators–were also featured on both programs. He also appeared in the Wild Wild West as the deadly assistant to Dr. Loveless, but most notable role in the series was that of Dimas, the disfigured son of a wealthy family who exiled him because of his birth defects; unlike his earlier characters, this particular role allowed Kiel to showcase his acting talents.
Kiel was one of many actors who auditioned for the role of The Hulk in the original The Incredible Hulk TV series. Kiel was actually cast as the Hulk for the pilot of the show, but during filming the producers decided that they wanted the character to be much more muscular and Kiel, despite his towering appearance, was not muscular enough. Years later, Kiel admitted that he did not mind losing the role because the makeup and contact lenses used in the role were very uncomfortable.
Kiel was involved in a car accident in 1992 which left him unable to walk without some means of support. He frequently used canes, walkers and eventually wheelchairs to get around. During one film appearance–Happy Gilmore–he can be seen leaning on canes and even people during his scenes for stability and support. Despite these physical limitations, Kiel continued to appear in occasional film roles—including a role as ‘Jaws’ in the 1996 film Inspector Gadget and a voice role in Disney’s tangled.
Richard Kiel died from complications related to coronary artery disease on September 10th, 2014, just several days before his 75th birthday.