‘Shaft’ star Richard Roundtree has died aged 81 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
The actor – best known for playing suave detective John Shaft in 1971 action movie ‘Shaft’ and its sequel – passed away on Tuesday (24.10.23) at his home in Los Angeles surrounded by his loved ones.
A statement from the actor’s agency confirmed the sad news to People.com: “Artists and Representatives Agency mourns the loss of our friend and client Richard Roundtree. 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.”
Roundtree previously battled breast cancer after being diagnosed with the condition back in 1993 and he went on to become an advocate for men’s health issues. Speaking on radio station WBUR in 2019, he explained: “I didn’t have a vote, I had to speak about it. Breast cancer is not gender specific. And men have this cavalier attitude about health issues. And I got such positive feedback because I spoke out about it and it’s been quite a number of years now. I’m a survivor.”
Roundtree was born in 1942, in New Rochelle, New York and was a star football player at school. His sporting abilities won him a scholarship to play football at Southern Illinois University but he dropped out in 1963 to pursue his acting career.
He went on to work in theatre before landing his breakout role in 1971 movie ‘Shaft’. Roundtree reprised the role for two sequels in the 1970s and he returned to the franchise years later for two more movies – in 2000 and 2019 – appearing opposite Samuel L. Jackson, who played John Shaft’s nephew.
Jackson was among those to pay tribute to the acting veteran, writing in a post on Instagram: “Richard Roundtree, The Prototype, The Best To Ever Do It!! SHAFT, as we know it is and will always be His Creation!!. His passing leaves a deep hole not only in my heart, but I’m sure a lotta y’all’s, too.”
Roundtree’s other movie roles included turns in 1974’s ‘Earthquake’, ‘Inchon’ with Sir Laurence Olivier, ‘City Heat’ opposite Clint Eastwood, David Fincher’s thriller ‘Se7en’ and ‘George of the Jungle’.
He was last seen on the big screen in 2022 comedy ‘Moving On’ with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin.
Roundtree’s TV credits include a notable turn in historical 1977 mini-series ‘Roots’ as well as appearances in ‘Desperate Housewives’, ‘Soul Food’, ‘Being Mary Jane’ and ‘Family Reunion’.