Richard Roundtree, the Hollywood icon who played John Shaft in the 1971 prequel to the “Shaft” film series, has died.
He was 81 years old.
His manager, Patrick McMinn of McMinn’s management agency, artists and actors, confirmed his death in a statement. He said Roundtree was suffering from pancreatic cancer and died Tuesday afternoon.
McMinn said his family was by his side.
“The Actors and Artists Agency mourns the loss of our friend and client, Richard Roundtree,” he said.
Although this was not the cause of his death, Roundtree was also a known breast cancer survivor. Diagnosed in 1993, he became an advocate for raising awareness of breast cancer among men.
He was drawn to the theater and joined New York’s famous Negro Ensemble, then starred as Jack Johnson in Off-Broadway’s The Great White Hope before appearing as John Shaft, according to the biography.
The 1971 film, directed by the legendary Gordon Parks, won the Academy Award for Best Score and Original Song for Isaac Hayes’ hit song and other music he created for it. The role of John Shaft, a private detective “hotter than Bond, cooler than Bullitt”, changed Roundtree’s life and the course of Hollywood by presenting him as an unapologetic hero and underground crime fighter.
The film “introduced the African-American action hero to mainstream cinema; until then, action hero roles had been reserved for white actors,” according to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Notes in a look at the “column” For its online film festival.
The critical and commercial success of “Shaft” launched a brief, small wave of major studio films focused on strong black heroes in Hollywood. This has afforded Roundtree a range of acting opportunities, as his face sometimes seems everywhere on screen.
His other credits include television hits such as “CHiPs,” “Magnum PI,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Chicago Fire.” He appeared in countless action films in the 1980s and 1990s, including “Original Gangstas.”
Of course, Roundtree has portrayed his relatives or older versions of himself in the later versions of “Shaft” starring Samuel L. Jackson.
Roundtree won a Peabody Award for his narration of “The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow,” a 2002 PBS documentary.
His steel jaw and turtleneck-covered muscles created an archetype of black masculinity, a display of masculinity coupled with wisdom. He was brave for the thinking man.
Cheo Coker, creator of the Netflix action-comedy series Luke Cage, He said on Xthe platform formerly known as Twitter: “My hero. A huge inspiration to Luke Cage.”
“His pioneering career changed the face of entertainment around the world, and his lasting legacy will be felt for generations to come,” McMinn said.
“Wannabe web expert. Twitter fanatic. Writer. Passionate coffee enthusiast. Freelance reader.”