Richard Roundtree, actor famous for playing Shaft, dies

Richard Roundtree the man who made Shaft legendary has died.
The man who made Shaft legendary has died. Photo credit: Getty Images

Richard Roundtree, the stage and screen actor best known for his role of a tough-talking private eye in 1971's Shaft, has died, according to multiple reports.

He was 81.

The news was confirmed by Roundtree's manager Patrick McMinn in a statement to Variety.

"Richard's work and career served as a turning point for African American leading men in film," McMinn said. "The impact he had on the industry cannot be overstated."

CNN has reached out to representatives for the actor for comment.

Roundtree has the distinction of being among a handful of actors who enjoyed top billing with his first-ever screen credit.

Until then a theatre actor, his starring role in the 1971 Blaxploitation epic Shaft propelled him into the cultural limelight, launching a franchise that would see sequels, a TV series and a 2019 reboot starring Samuel L. Jackson.

The actor would go on to enjoy a career spanning 50 years with over 150 screen credits. Notable television credits include Roots, Desperate Housewives, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Roundtree also costarred in films such as Se7enSpeed Racer and Brick.

Actress Gabrielle Union shared a tribute to Roundtree on X, formerly Twitter, reposting images showing the pair from their time together on the TV series Being Mary Jane.

Jackson, who costarred with Roundtree in the Shaft reboot, called the late actor "The Prototype, The Best To Ever Do It!!" in an Instagram tribute on Tuesday evening.

"His passing leaves a deep hole not only in my heart, but I'm sure a lotta y'all's, too," Jackson continued. "Love you Brother, I see you walking down the Middle of Main Street in Heaven & Issac's Conducting your song coat blowin' in wind!! Angels whispering."