Shaft actor Richard Roundtree dies, aged 81
25 October 2023, 10:28
The actor died after a short battle with pancreatic cancer.
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Richard Roundtree, the actor most known for his roles in the Shaft franchise, has died aged 81.
The star died at home in Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon (October 24) surrounded by his family, his manager Patrick McMinn told The Hollywood Reporter.
Roundtree's death comes after a short battle with pancreatic cancer.
"Richard's work and career served as a turning point for African American leading men in film," McMinn said.
"The impact he had on the industry cannot be overstated," he added.
Richard Roundtree, born on July 9, 1942, in New Rochelle, New York, embarked on his acting journey in the early 1960s.
He achieved groundbreaking acclaim for his iconic portrayal of the detective John Shaft, skyrocketing to stardom at the young age of 29.
The movie franchise from the 1970s achieved iconic status as one of the pioneering works in what later became recognised as the Blaxploitation film genre, characterised by action films that highlighted heroic black protagonists.
Additionally, Roundtree's acting career included roles in various films and television series.
Notable works in his filmography encompass movies such as Inchon and Seven, and his appearances in television series like Roots, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Desperate Housewives.
Samuel L Jackson, who featured in the 2000 reboot of Shaft paid a heartfelt tribute to the late actor.
Jackson described Roundtree as "the prototype, the best to ever do it."
"His passing leaves a deep hole not only in my heart, but I'm sure a lotta y'all's, too," Jackson wrote on Instagram.
"Love you Brother, I see you walking down the Middle Street in Heaven & Isaac's Conducting your song," he added, referencing their shared connection to the iconic character Shaft.
In 1993, Roundtree received a diagnosis of breast cancer, leading to a double mastectomy as part of his treatment.
Roundtree is survived by his four daughters, named Kelli, Nicole, Taylor, and Morgan, as well as his son John.
Additionally, he is reported to have at least one grandchild, as noted by the New York Times.