On Monday, the world lost actor Yaphet Kotto at the age of 81, and naturally people have been offering their memories of him. Now, his Alien co-star Sigourney Weaver has given a touching tribute to the man and his talent.
When Weaver was cast as Ripley, she previously had only a pair of inconsequential movie parts to her name, while Kotto was a veteran of over two dozen film and TV roles over the previous 15 years. Here’s what she had to to say of how his presence during production impacted her:
“Every day Yaphet Kotto blew me away on the set of Alien. He just went for it in every scene, making the stakes higher and higher and giving each scene a terrifying reality. It was a nonstop master class for me and I will always be grateful to him. Rest In Peace Parker… Over and out, Ripley.”
Kotto’s Parker was the Nostromo’s chief engineer who, along with Harry Dean Stanton’s Brett, represented blue collar grunt workers contrasted against the upper deck officers of the other characters. He begins the film as somewhat standoffish and aggressive, but ends it as heroic, first preventing Ripley from being choked to death by Ash, and even fatally engaging with the Xenomorph in a valiant, if ultimately futile, attempt to save Lambert.
Kotto has appeared in multiple significant roles in major productions over the years, such as drug lord Mr. Big in the Blaxploitation-influenced James Bond flick Live and Let Die, harassed FBI agent in Alonzo Mosely in action comedy Midnight Run, resistance fighter William Laughlin in sci-fi actioner The Running Man, and dream-controlling therapist Doc in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, in which he becomes one of the few people to ever take down Freddy Krueger in the dream world.
However, for many it will always be Alien with which he is most closely associated. Although the script was purposefully written so that no character was tied to a specific gender or ethnicity, it was still a big deal in the late ‘70s for an African American to be cast in a heroic role, and as Weaver states, it was one he embodied utterly, and the movie is all the stronger for it.