Richard Roundtree, iconic “Shaft” actor, passes away at 81

Richard Roundtree, the legendary American actor renowned for his iconic portrayal of the titular character in the Shaft film series, has died at the age of 81. The actor, who achieved worldwide fame for his role in Shaft, reportedly passed away at his Los Angeles home surrounded by his family on Tuesday afternoon after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer.

Roundtree’s manager, Patrick McMinn, emphasised the profound impact Roundtree had on the film industry, stating, “Richard’s work and career served as a turning point for African American leading men in film. The impact he had on the industry cannot be overstated.”

Throughout his career, Roundtree’s influence extended beyond Shaft. He embraced a diverse range of roles, appearing alongside Hollywood greats like Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner in Earthquake (1974) and taking on the title role in Man Friday (1975) opposite Peter O’Toole.

In addition to his cinematic accomplishments, Roundtree was known for his advocacy. In 1993, he was diagnosed with breast cancer, publicly addressing the issue and raising awareness of the condition’s presence in men.

Roundtree is survived by four daughters and a son. 

Samuel L Jackson, who took over the Shaft franchise in 2000, paid tribute to Roundtree, emphasising the actor’s pioneering role in shaping the entertainment industry.

Subscribe to our Newsletter
Stay up-to-date