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CINEMA

Richard Roundtree, ‘Shaft’ actor dies at 81: what was the cause of death?

The African-American actor will be best remembered for his character in the 1971 classic, but there was so much more to his career.

The African-American actor will be best remembered for his character in the 1971 classic, but there was so much more to his career.
ANGELA WEISSAFP

The world of cinema is in mourning the death of Richard Roundtree, who passed away at the age of 81 due to pancreatic cancer he had been battling for several months. He did so surrounded by his family in his Los Angeles home, as confirmed by his representative, Patrick McMinn, The Hollywood Reporter.

He is an actor who has made history in the world of the silver screen, completely revolutionizing the action film genre with his iconic role as John Shaft in ‘Shaft’. This role changed the industry, as in addition to shining with his acrobatics and acting prowess, it also served as an example in the ‘Black Power’ movement, with it being considered by many as “the first black action hero”.

The actor’s representative did not hesitate to emphasize the significance he had in the industry to ‘Variety’: “Richard’s work and career served as a turning point for African-American leads in film. The impact he had on the industry cannot be underestimated.”

Roundtree’s career marked by ‘Shaft’

Roundtree rose to stardom through his role in ‘Shaft’, a film franchise that spans nearly five decades, with the first film released in 1971 and the last in 2019. A franchise that marked an era and took him to the heights of Hollywood.

However, the actor not only excelled as John Shaft, as he also shone in other projects on both the small and big screen, such as ‘Roots’, ‘When We Were Colored’, ‘Heroes’, ‘Chicago Fire’, ‘Being Mary Jane’, ‘Collar’, and the latest installment of the franchise, also named ‘Shaft’.

In this film, he reprised his charismatic role, though this time, the plot focused on his nephew, who shares the same name and was portrayed by another cinematic legend, Samuel L. Jackson. He had his own message:

“The passing of Richard Roundtree is a real blow,” began Jackson on X. “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.”

Tributes to Richard Roundtree