ENTERTAINMENT

Richard Roundtree, ‘Shaft’ star, has died

Oct 25, 2023, 3:37 PM

Richard Roundtree...

Richard Roundtree seen here in August 1972, the stage and screen actor best known for his performance as a tough-talking private eye in 1971’s “Shaft,” has died, according to multiple reports. (Lochow/picture alliance/Getty Images)

(Lochow/picture alliance/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Richard Roundtree, the stage and screen actor best known for his performance as a tough-talking private eye in 1971’s “Shaft,” has died. He was 81.

The news was confirmed by Roundtree’s theatrical talent agent Artist and Representatives, who said in an email to CNN that the actor died Tuesday afternoon after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. His family was with him at his bedside.

“Artists & 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,” their included statement read. “Our hearts are with his family and loved ones during this difficult time.”

Roundtree has the distinction of being among a handful of actors who enjoyed top billing with his first-ever screen credit. Until then a theater actor, his starring role in the 1971 Blaxploitation epic “Shaft” propelled him into the cultural limelight, launching a franchise that would see sequels, a TV series and a 2019 reboot starring Samuel L. Jackson.

The actor would go on to enjoy a career spanning 50 years with over 150 screen credits. Notable television credits include “Roots,” “Desperate Housewives,” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Roundtree also costarred in films such as “Se7en,” “Speed Racer” and “Brick.”

Actress Gabrielle Union shared a tribute to Roundtree on X, formerly Twitter, reposting images showing the pair from their time together on the TV series “Being Mary Jane.”

Jackson, who costarred with Roundtree in the “Shaft” reboot, called the late actor “The Prototype, The Best To Ever Do It!!” in an Instagram tribute on Tuesday evening.

“His passing leaves a deep hole not only in my heart, but I’m sure a lotta y’all’s, too,” Jackson continued. “Love you Brother, I see you walking down the Middle of Main Street in Heaven & Issac’s Conducting your song coat blowin’ in wind!! Angels whispering.”

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Richard Roundtree, ‘Shaft’ star, has died