Tributes have poured in for the actor Richard Kiel, best known for his role as the steel-toothed villain Jaws in two 1970s James Bond films, who died yesterday aged 74.

The statuesque 7ft 2in actor portrayed the mercenary assassin Jaws in the 1977 movie The Spy Who Loved Me and the 1979 thriller Moonraker both opposite Sir Roger Moore as Agent 007.

Kiel died yesterday afternoon at a hospital in Fresno, California, according to a report on Wednesday by TMZ.

Sir Roger Moore, 86, took to Twitter to express his grief at the sad news, posting: ‘I am totally distraught to learn of my dear friend Richard Kiel’s passing.

‘We were on a radio programme together just a week ago. Distraught.’

He later added: ‘Can’t take it in’.

Former NFL player Carl Waethers, who appeared in 1996’s Happy Gilmore and 1978’s Force 10 from Navarone alongside Kiel, tweeted: ‘RIP Richard Kiel. Had the pleasure to work with you twice. #BePeace.’

Happy Gilmore star Adam Sandler said in a statement, ‘Richard Kiel was one of the nicest, funniest guys I’ve ever met.

‘I’ll never forget hanging out with him & how good he was to everyone.

‘Richard was a special man. My thoughts are with his family.’

American actress, Barbara Eden, who appeared with the actor in the sitcom, I Dream of Jeannie, also wrote: ‘Many fond memories of Richard Kiel, sweet man & gentle giant. My thoughts & prayers to his family & friends. -Barbara.’

Kiel was a patient at Saint Agnes Medical Center and his death was confirmed by Kelley Sanchez, director of communications at the hospital.

The towering star recently broke his leg and received treatment at the medical center, according to TMZ.

A cause of death has not yet been reported.

Kiel’s other memorable film and television performances included imposing boss Mr. Larson in Happy Gilmore starring Adam Sandler, lethal assistant Voltaire in The Wild, Wild West and the extraterrestrial Kanamit in the memorable 1962 The Twilight Zone episode To Serve Man
The Twilight Zone episode that he starred in famously ends with a cryptologist sharing the true nature of the alien’s To Serve Man tome as she revealed: ‘It’s a cookbook!’

He also portrayed a prisoner who played a bruising game of football against the guards in the 1974 film The Longest Yard starring Burt Reynolds and was a killer in the 1976 comedy Silver Streak starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor.

His character Jaws ranks among the top Bond villains alongside Goldfinger, Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Rosa Klebb.

Jaws was known for his enormous size and strength plus those sharp steel teeth that he could use to bite through cables and to chomp on the neck of his victims.

Moore, who played the fictional British secret agent in seven films, wrote an August 2012 article about his favourite Bond villains.

‘The most memorable of all, however, has to be Jaws, sidekick to the evil Karl Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me,’ Moore, 86, wrote in the article.

‘Jaws was played by my good friend Richard Kiel, who stands 7ft 2½ in. Jaws got his name from the ominous, glinting steel teeth he wore, of course. Poor devil, they were so uncomfortable to wear – Richard could only keep them in for about half a minute at a time,’ Moore wrote.

Bond movie producer Albert R. Broccoli has been credited with adding steel teeth to the Jaws character for The Spy Who Loved Me.

The teeth were designed as cog-like in shape as it was believed pointy teeth would injure Kiel.

When Jaws was required to bite through something, liquorice was use. Jaws only had one line in both of his appearances in the Bond franchise.

‘Well, here’s to us,’ he said at the end of Moonraker as he opened a bottle of champagne with his girlfriend Dolly.

His character was inspired by Bond author Ian Fleming’s description of a villain named Horror who revealed steel-capped teeth while speaking in the novel The Spy Who Loved Me.

Earlier this year, Kiel told the Daily Mail: ‘To this day, I go out in sunglasses and a hat because people will shout “Hey, Jaws!” at me from across the street.

‘The only way I can explain it is that he’s like the Road Runner, which Coyote keeps trying to blow up, but he keeps going.’

Before finding fame as a Bond villain, Kiel got his career breakthrough starring as Voltaire to Dr. Miguelito Loveless in The Wild, Wild West in 1965.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Kiel made his acting debut in the television series Laramie, in an episode titled Street Of Hate.

He suffered a severe head injury in a 1992 car accident that affected his balance and forced him to walk with a cane, as shown in his appearances in Happy Gilmore, or use a scooter to get around.

Moore in his 2009 memoir My Word Is My Bond described how Kiel was starkly different from his Jaws character.

‘Richard is so kind, so gentle,’ Moore wrote of his co-star.

Kiel’s abnormal height and distinct features were a result of a hormonal condition called acromegaly that is often associated with gigantism.

Kiel published an autobiography in 2002 titled Making It Big in the Movies.

He also co-authored the 2007 book Kentucky Lion: The True Story of Cassius Clay about the politician who worked for the abolition of slavery.

In 2009, Kiel worked with former Star Trek actor, Robert Picardo, on horror science-fiction film, The Awakened.

Today Picardo tweeted: ‘Rest in peace gentle giant Richard Kiel. I am so glad we met through our mutual friend Mr. Marlowe and had the opportunity to work together.’