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Richard Roundtree, whose signature role in the Shaft franchise broke barriers in film and launched the Blaxploitation era, has died at the age of 81.

Deadline reports that the veteran actor passed away on October 24 after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. His family was by his bedside.

Roundtree’s transition was confirmed by longtime manager Patrick McMinn and his agency, Artists & Representatives.

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

“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.”

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Shaft's Big Score!

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Born in 1942, the NY native was one of the breakout stars of film’s Blaxploitation era in the early 1970s. His debut film role as John Shaft, a take-no-prisoners detective with his own brand of justice, earned him a Golden Globe nomination and the title of the first Black action hero.

Roundtree would reprise his role several times throughout his career. Following the 1971 original, he starred in Shaft’s Big Score! (1972) and Shaft in Africa, as well as a short-lived TV series.

Years later, he would revisit the character in John Singleton’s 2000 remake with Samuel L. Jackson and its direct 2019 sequel, directed by Tim Story.

Overall, Roundtree had over 70 film credits to his name. Other films include An Eye for an Eye, Se7en, Original Gangstas, and George of The Jungle. His final film to date is 2022’s Moving On.

TV credits include Magnum P.I., Roots, Family Reunion, and Cherish The Day.

Roundtree is survived by five children.

Richard Roundtree, Legendary Star of “Shaft,” Dies at 81  was originally published on