Samuel L Jackson played his nephew ‘Shaft’ in the 2000 sequel and was among the first to pay tribute on social media, saying his death ‘leaves a deep void’
Richard Roundtreefamous for his lead role in the thriller “Shaft” in 1971, he died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 81. His manager confirmed his death to the American websites “Variety”, “Hollywood Reporter” and “Deadline”.
Roundtree’s portrayal of the intelligent private detective, John Shaftmade him a star, with Isaac Hayes’ famous score also winning an Oscar.
Richard Roundtree, star of Shaft and Roots, dies aged 81 https://t.co/tcBYjQ3iX9
— Guardian US (@GuardianUS) October 25, 2023
‘Shaft’ is the most well-known of the ‘Blaxploitation’ genre of the 1970s. Films featuring actors and crews of color, which later influenced directors such as Quentin Tarantino.
In the film, a mobster from Harlem hires Roundtree’s character to rescue his kidnapped daughter, and the film became a big hit despite its small budget.
This was followed by ‘Shaft’s Big Score’ in 1972 and ‘Shaft in Africa’ in 1973, and there was also a short TV series.
“Richard’s work and career served as a ‘landmark’ for African-American film stars,” his manager, Patrick McMinn, told Variety. “His impact on the entertainment industry cannot be understated.” .
Roundtree worked as a model in his early 20s before joining a black theater group and landing the role of ‘Shaft’ at the age of 28.
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He also appeared in “Roots” in 1977, a landmark miniseries based on the era of slavery in the US, and the soap opera “Generations” from 1989 to 1991.
Roundtree reprized his role as “Shaft” in the 2000 film of the same name with Samuel L Jackson as his nephew, as well as a 2019 Netflix film that continued the franchise.
Richard Roundtree, a trailblazing Black actor who played the private eye John Shaft in the ‘Shaft’ films of the 1970s and also took on dramatic roles dealing with race relations in America, dies aged 81 https://t.co/tjeSNRy1zC
— Reuters (@Reuters) October 25, 2023
Roundtree’s other credits include appearing with Laurence Olivier in 1981’s Inchon and alongside Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds in 1984’s City Heat.
Roundtree was married twice and leaves behind four daughters and a son.
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