Richard Roundtree, a Hollywood icon, starred as John Shaft in the 1971 debut of the “Shaft” film franchise.
He is 81 years old.
His manager, Patrick McMinn of McMinn Management and Artists and Representation Agency, confirmed his death in a statement. He said Roundtree had pancreatic cancer and died Tuesday afternoon.
His family was by his side, McMinn said.
“Artists and Representatives Company mourns the loss of our friend and client Richard Roundtree,” he said.
Although it wasn’t the cause of her death, Roundtree was a well-known breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed in 1993 and became an advocate for more breast cancer awareness among men.
He was drawn to the theater and joined New York’s acclaimed Negro Ensemble Company, then played Jack Johnson in Off Broadway’s “The Great White Hope” before being offered the role of John Shaft.
The 1971 film, directed by the legendary Gordon Parks, won Oscars for Best Score and Original Song for Isaac Hayes’ eponymous hit and other music he composed. The role of John Shaft, a “hotter than Bond, cooler than Bullitt” private detective, changed Roundtree’s career and the course of Hollywood, launching him as an unforgiving protagonist and underground fighter of crime.
The film “introduced the African American action hero to mainstream cinema; until then, action-hero roles had been reserved for white actors,” University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Notes at a glance on “Shaft”. for its online film festival.
The critical and commercial success of “Shaft” started a short-lived and small wave of major studio films in Hollywood focusing on strong black protagonists. And it gave Roundtree so many different acting opportunities that his face sometimes seemed to be everywhere on screen.
Her other credits include television hits such as “CHiPs,” “Magnum PI,” “desperate Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Chicago Fire.” He also appeared in countless 1980s and 1990s action films, including “The Original Gangstas.”
Of course, Samuel L. Roundtree portrayed her cousins or older versions in new versions of “Shaft” starring Jackson.
Roundtree won a Peabody Award for the 2002 PBS documentary “The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow.”
His steel jaw and tortoiseshell musculature created a prototype of black masculinity, a presentation of majesty combined with wisdom. He is a thinking man’s fighter.
Seo Coker, creator of the Netflix comic action hero series “Luke Cage.” Said in XThe site formerly known as Twitter: “My hero. A huge inspiration for Luke Cage.”
“His trailblazing career changed the face of entertainment around the world, and his lasting legacy will be felt for generations to come,” McMinn said.