February 27, 2024

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Richard Roundtree, Smooth Star of ‘Shaft,’ Dies at 81

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Richard Roundtree, the movie icon behind the enduring Shaft character, died Tuesday in L.A. after battling pancreatic cancer, THR reports.

He was 81.

Roundtree had beaten breast cancer in 1993.

The actor was born July 9, 1942, in New Rochelle, New York. A model in the Ebony Fashion Fair in the early '60s, he joined the Negro Ensemble Company in 1967, working off-off-Broadway.

Roundtree was chosen to play the title role in "Shaft" by director Gordon Parks after a mass audition. The film was a smash, and Roundtree's portrayal of the suave P.I. made him an overnight star.

Over time, he returned to the role of John Shaft frequently, appearing in "Shaft's Big Score!" (1972), "Shaft in Africa" (1973), and in both Samuel L. Jackson versions of "Shaft" (2000 & 2019).

He was a motorcycle daredevil in the disaster epic "Earthquake" (1974), worked opposite Sir Laurence Olivier in "Inchon" (1981), in the buddy crime movie "City Heat" (1984) with Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds, and in David Fincher's "Se7en" (1995) with Brad Pitt.

On TV, he was Sam Bennett in "Roots" (1977), Dr. Reubens on "Generations" (1989-1991), on a well-remembered episode of "Beverly Hills, 90210" (1991), and was a regular on the drama "413 Hope St." (1997-1998). He played Booker T. Washington in the 1999 TV movie "Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years" (1999).

In recent years, Roundtree was featured in the films "What Men Want" (2019), "Haunting of the Mary Celeste" (2020), and the Lily Tomlin-Jane Fonda comedy "Moving On" (2022).

He rounded out his prolific career as a regular on TV's "Family Reunion" (2019-2022) and "Cherish the Day" (2021-2022), and in the film "Collar" (2023).

Roundtree was married and divorced twice. He is survived by his five children.

Richard Roundtree, Smooth Star of 'Shaft,' Dies at 81

Richard Roundtree, the movie icon behind the enduring Shaft character, died Tuesday in L.A. after battling pancreatic cancer, THR reports.

He was 81.

Roundtree had beaten breast cancer in 1993.

The actor was born July 9, 1942, in New Rochelle, New York. A model in the Ebony Fashion Fair in the early ’60s, he joined the Negro Ensemble Company in 1967, working off-off-Broadway.

Roundtree was chosen to play the title role in “Shaft” by director Gordon Parks after a mass audition. The film was a smash, and Roundtree’s portrayal of the suave P.I. made him an overnight star.

Over time, he returned to the role of John Shaft frequently, appearing in “Shaft’s Big Score!” (1972), “Shaft in Africa” (1973), and in both Samuel L. Jackson versions of “Shaft” (2000 & 2019).

He was a motorcycle daredevil in the disaster epic “Earthquake” (1974), worked opposite Sir Laurence Olivier in “Inchon” (1981), in the buddy crime movie “City Heat” (1984) with Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds, and in David Fincher’s “Se7en” (1995) with Brad Pitt.

On TV, he was Sam Bennett in “Roots” (1977), Dr. Reubens on “Generations” (1989-1991), on a well-remembered episode of “Beverly Hills, 90210” (1991), and was a regular on the drama “413 Hope St.” (1997-1998). He played Booker T. Washington in the 1999 TV movie “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years” (1999).

In recent years, Roundtree was featured in the films “What Men Want” (2019), “Haunting of the Mary Celeste” (2020), and the Lily Tomlin-Jane Fonda comedy “Moving On” (2022).

He rounded out his prolific career as a regular on TV’s “Family Reunion” (2019-2022) and “Cherish the Day” (2021-2022), and in the film “Collar” (2023).

Roundtree was married and divorced twice. He is survived by his five children.

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