Shaft actor Richard Roundtree dies aged 81 of pancreatic cancer, as co-stars pay tribute to 'best to ever do it'

25 October 2023, 06:11

Richard Roundtree
Richard Roundtree. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Richard Roundtree, the actor best known for his performance as a detective in the Shaft film series, has died aged 81 of cancer.

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Roundtree died on Tuesday with his family by his side, his representatives said.

The agency said in a statement: “Artists & Representatives Agency mourns the loss of our friend and client Richard Roundtree.

Richard Roundtree
Richard Roundtree. Picture: Alamy

"His trailblazing career changed the face of entertainment around the globe and his enduring legacy will be felt for generations to come.

"Our hearts are with his family and loved ones during this difficult time."

Read more: Everton chairman and West End legend Bill Kenwright dies aged 78

Read more: 'He's left a gaping hole in many lives': British base jumper dies after crash during 1,300ft fall, as family pay tribute

Richard Roundtree
Richard Roundtree. Picture: Getty

Roundtree shot to fame with role in the 1971 blaxploitation thriller Shaft, where he played the all-action detective John Shaft.

He reprised the role in four sequels in 1972, 1973, 2000 and 2019. The last two co-starred Samuel L. Jackson.

Richard Roundtree reprised the role of John Shaft in several more films, including two with Samuel L. Jackson
Richard Roundtree reprised the role of John Shaft in several more films, including two with Samuel L. Jackson. Picture: Alamy

Roundtree also starred in a TV series of the same name.

As well as Shaft, he is known for his work on TV shows like Roots, Alias, Desperate Housewives and Family Reunion.

He also appeared in dozens of films, including George of the Jungle, Moving On and Se7en.

Jackson wrote in tribute after Roundtree's death: “Richard Roundtree, The Prototype, The Best To Ever Do It!

Richard Roundtree as John Shaft
Richard Roundtree as John Shaft. Picture: Getty

"Shaft as we know it is and will always be His Creation!!

"His passing leaves a deep hole not only in my heart, but I’m sure a lotta y’all’s, too."

Referencing Isaac Hayes' Theme from Shaft, which won an Oscar, Jackson said: "Love you Brother, I see you walking down the Middle of Main Street in Heaven & Issac’s Conducting your song."

Richard Roundtree in Shaft
Richard Roundtree in Shaft. Picture: Alamy

Gabrielle Union, who starred with Roundtree in the TB series Being Mary Jane, said: "Working with Richard Roundtree was a dream.

"Getting to hang with him & our Being Mary Jane family was always a good ass time with the best stories & laughs.

"He was ALWAYS the coolest man in the room with the BEST vibes & ppl would literally run over to come see him. He was simply the best & we all loved him."

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