‘Shaft’ star Richard Roundtree dies at 81

Richard Roundtree, actor in the popular franchise “Shaft,” died on Tuesday at 81, Roundtree’s manager Patrick McMinn confirmed to ABC News.

Roundtree died after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer, McMinn said.

According to ABC, Roundtree’s career spanned five decades, but it was his portrayal of Detective John Shaft in the 1971 action thriller that established him as the first Black action hero. He went on to star in the sequels “Shaft’s Big Score!,” “Shaft in Africa” and the short-lived 1973 “Shaft” TV series.

Roundtree would reprise the role in the 2000 John Singleton movie “Shaft,” starring Samuel L. Jackson, and the 2019 Tim Story-directed sequel.

Roundtree’s last big-screen appearance was in the comedy “Moving On” in 2022, but the actor also starred in films like 1981’s “Inchon,” opposite Laurence Olivier and Ben Gazzara, and 1984’s “City Heat,” opposite Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds, as well as “Se7en,” “George of the Jungle,” “Body of Influence,” “Amityville: A New Generation” and “What Men Want.”

Roundtree’s talent agency, Artists & Representatives Agency, released a statement reflecting on his acting legacy, noting, “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.”

Celebrities like Gabrielle Union, who starred in “Being Mary Jane” with Roundtree reacted to his death on X (formally known as Twitter), saying “Working with Richard Roundtree was a dream. … 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.”