Richard Roundtree, the iconic actor best known for his groundbreaking role in the 1970s film “Shaft,” has died at the age of 81. His manager, Patrick McMinn, confirmed that Roundtree passed away on Tuesday at his Los Angeles home after battling pancreatic cancer.
Roundtree’s contribution to cinema extended beyond his on-screen roles, as he was a pioneering figure for black filmmakers and performers. His portrayal of the suave and tough private detective John Shaft in the classic “Shaft” film, part of the Blaxploitation genre, earned him widespread recognition and respect.
In 1972, Roundtree’s exceptional performance in “Shaft” earned him a Golden Globe nomination, further solidifying his status as a trailblazer in the film industry. His remarkable career was later honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1995 MTV Movie and TV Awards, a testament to his enduring impact on the entertainment world.
The passing of Richard Roundtree is a real blow. Loved being around him, learning, working, laughing & feeling Blessed to have an idol live up to who I expected him to be!! Thanks for making us feel REAL GOOD about ourselves!
Rest In Power‼️‼️‼️👊🏾👊🏾👊🏾🤎🤎 pic.twitter.com/yQq6SXyn9K
— Samuel L. Jackson (@SamuelLJackson) October 25, 2023
Throughout his illustrious career, Roundtree appeared in a wide range of notable films and television shows. His versatile talent allowed him to leave an indelible mark on the industry with roles in “Roots,” “Once Upon a Time… When We Were Colored,” “Man Friday,” “Shaft’s Big Score!,” and “Shaft in Africa.” He showcased his talent in a variety of genres, including action in “Seven” and family comedies like “George of the Jungle.”
Despite his career’s ups and downs, Roundtree’s resilience and dedication to his craft shone through. He overcame a health scare in 1993 when he was diagnosed with breast cancer, a disease more commonly associated with women. Following his diagnosis, he underwent a double mastectomy after discovering a lump while filming on location in Costa Rica. His openness about this experience raised awareness and broke down stereotypes about breast cancer.
In addition to his film career, Roundtree also had roles in popular television series and more recent projects, with his most recent credit in 2023 being “Collar – Director’s Cut.”
Roundtree is survived by his daughters Kelli, Nicole, Tayler, and Morgan, along with a son, John.