Action Hero Richard Roundtree, Star of Shaft, Dies at 81 from Pancreatic Cancer
Richard Roundtree, best known for his role in the 1971 film Shaft, has died at the age of 77. His work was influential for African American actors in the industry.
Richard Roundtree, a trailblazing African American actor known for his iconic role in the Blaxploitation film Shaft, has passed away at his home in Los Angeles after battling pancreatic cancer. The news was confirmed by his manager, Patrick McMinn. Roundtree's impact on the film industry is immeasurable, serving as a turning point for African American leading men.
Shaft, released in 1971, catapulted Roundtree to stardom. The film depicted the life of a private detective in Harlem, New York, and spawned multiple sequels and a short-lived TV series. Roundtree's portrayal of the rugged and streetwise character, complete with flashy leather jackets and a memorable theme song by Isaac Hayes, not only defined cool for Black leading men but also resonated with white audiences.
In addition to Shaft, Roundtree made significant contributions to other groundbreaking projects. He had a role in the groundbreaking ABC television drama Roots in 1977, which explored the harsh realities of slavery. He also portrayed motorcycle daredevil Miles in the 1974 film Earthquake. One of his more poignant films was Once Upon a Time ... When We Were Colored, released in 1996, which told the story of a tight-knit Black community facing post-war Mississippi's racism. Roundtree also appeared in Man Friday alongside Peter O'Toole's Robinson Crusoe in 1975 and portrayed General Douglas MacArthur in Inchon in 1981, alongside Laurence Olivier.
Despite his passing, Roundtree's work continued until the end. He had an impressive 159 acting credits to his name, with three upcoming projects yet to be released, according to IMDB.com. His contributions to the entertainment industry will forever be remembered.
Richard Roundtree was not only a talented actor but also a devoted family man. He was married twice and leaves behind four daughters - Nicole, Tayler, Morgan, and Kelli Roundtree - as well as his son, James. His legacy as a pioneering African American actor will continue to inspire future generations in the film industry and beyond.