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Richard Roundtree, the Iconic Shaft Star, Dies at 81

Richard Roundtree, the Iconic Shaft Star, Dies at 81

Richard Roundtree

After a brief battle with pancreatic cancer, Richard Roundtree, the iconic actor who starred in the groundbreaking 1971 film Shaft, died in the afternoon on Tuesday, October 24, 2023, at the age of 81.

Richard Roundtree

Roundtree was born in New Rochelle, New York, in 1942. With his acting career spanning over five decades, he began in the late 1950s, appearing on the soap opera As The World Turns. In 1971, he landed the role of John Shaft, a private detective in Harlem. The film was a critical and commercial success, and Roundtree became a household name.

Shaft was a groundbreaking film for its time, featuring a black protagonist in a leading role. The film was also praised for its realistic portrayal of African American culture in the early 1970s. Roundtree’s performance as Shaft was widely praised, and he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama.

Roundtree reprised the role of Shaft in two sequels, Shaft’s Big Score (1972) and Shaft in Africa (1973). He also starred in other films, such as Super Fly (1972), Charley Varrick (1973), and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004).

Decades later, the actor reprised his role in the 2000 John Singleton movie Shaft starring Samuel L. Jackson and the 2019 Tim Story-directed sequel.

Jackson shared his reaction to the news on Twitter:

Tia Mowry also took to social media to mourn the loss:

Mowry and Roundtree seemed to really bond on the set of the Netflix sitcom, Family Reunion. Through the years, Roundtree became everyone’s dad on and off screen.

He was a role model for many African American actors and actresses. He paved the way for other black actors to play leading roles in mainstream Hollywood films. He was also a vocal advocate for civil rights and social justice.

Roundtree’s death was confirmed to Deadline by his agency, Artists & Representatives, and his longtime manager, Patrick McMinn.

“Artists & Representatives Agency mourns the loss of our friend and client Richard Roundtree,” the agency said in a statement. “His trailblazing career changed the face of entertainment around the globe and his enduring legacy will be felt for generations to come. Our hearts are with his family and loved ones during this difficult time.”

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