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(TMZ) - Richard Kiel, who became famous for portraying the James Bond villain, Jaws ... died Wednesday afternoon at the age of 74 ... TMZ has learned.

Kiel starred in dozens of movies over the span of 50 years ... though his Jaws character became his most iconic role after debuting in 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me alongside Roger Moore. He returned in Moonraker two years later.

The 7-foot-2 Kiel also co-starred with Adam Sandler in the golf classic Happy Gilmore.

TMZ reports Kiel had broken his leg last week and was in a hospital in Fresno, CA. A family member tells us he passed away this afternoon in the hospital -- and it's unclear if his death was connected to the leg injury. 

Photo: Getty Images