Star of “Shaft,” Richard Roundtree, passes away at age 81

Actor Richard Roundtree, a trailblazer who played the incredibly slick private eye in multiple Shaft movies starting in the early 1970s, has passed away. age 81 years old.

According to Patrick McMinn, Roundtree’s longtime manager, the actor passed away on Tuesday at home in Los Angeles after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. After receiving a breast cancer diagnosis in 1993, he had a double mastectomy.

According to McMinn, “Richard’s work and career served as a turning point for African American leading men.” “It is impossible to overestimate his influence on the industry.”

Born in New Rochelle, New York, Roundtree is regarded as the first Black action hero. He rose to prominence in the blaxploitation genre as a result of his portrayal of the shrewd New Yorker John Shaft in the 1971 film directed by Gordon Parks. It was Roundtree’s debut performance in a feature film at the age of 28, having begun his career as a model.


Roundtree’s Shaft contributed to a shift in Hollywood’s perception of Black films, which at the time did not give Black actors much thought, particularly when it came to leading parts. African American viewers were the target demographic for most of the blaxploitation movies.

His character in the movie made his way through the world of thugs. He would frequently utter catchphrases like “I must please that booty.”

In 2000, Roundtree stated, “What we were doing was a good, old Saturday afternoon shoot ’em up.” in an interview with The Associated Press.

The line “You a bad mother— (Shut your mouth)” from Isaac Hayes’ Shaft theme song contributed to the original film’s infiltration of popular culture. The song was compared to the “shot heard round the world,” according to the vocalist, who passed away in 2008. In 1971, his song took home the Best Song Oscar and two Grammy Awards the following year.

Roundtree made a comeback in the successful follow-ups Shaft’s Big Score (1972) and Shaft in Africa (1973). In the same year, he reprised his role as the astute investigator in the short-lived CBS sitcom Shaft.

In the 2000 Shaft film, Roundtree played the same character in a revival starring Samuel L. Jackson. He made an appearance in the big-budget, mass-market movie as Jackson’s uncle. In the 2019 movie starring Jessie T. Usher, both made repeat appearances in the same roles.

About Roundtree, Jackson remarked, “SHAFT, as we know it is & will always be his Creation.” “Not only does his passing leave a deep hole in my heart, but I’m sure it does for a lot of you too.”

In addition to Jackson, several other well-known people have also shown their condolences to Roundtree.

Working with Roundtree on the movie Being Mary Jane, according to Gabrielle Union, “was a dream.”

People would practically race over to see him because he was always the coolest dude in the room with the BEST vibes. We all adored him and he was the greatest,” she wrote.


Tia Mowry, Roundtree’s Family Reunion co-star, also sent her sympathy. Mowry stated she had “no words for this loss” in an Instagram post.

“You have had such a profound influence on my life, Richard. She went on, “Your kind spirit, your light, your heart, and your amazing insight have my eternal gratitude.


Throughout his more than 50-year career, Roundtree starred in several more noteworthy movies, such as Taraji P. Henson’s What Men Want, Earthquake, and Man Friday alongside Peter O’Toole, Roots, Maniac Cop, and Se7en. In addition, he left his impact on television with appearances on The Love Boat, Mary Jane, and Magnum P.I.

At the MTV Movie & TV Awards in 1995, Roundtree was given a lifetime achievement award.

– Using materials from Sarah Do Couto of Global News



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