Shaft star Richard Roundtree dies aged 81

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Richard Roundtree has died following being diagnosed with cancer (Picture: Invision/ AP)

Actor Richard Roundtree has died at the age of 81.

The star, who played detective John Shaft in the Shaft film franchise, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a short time ago.

He died at home in Los Angeles on Tuesday surrounded by his family, his manager confirmed.

In a statement on Wednesday, his manager, Patrick McMinn paid tribute to the actor, whose ‘work and career served as a turning point for African American leading men in film.’

‘The impact he had on the industry cannot be overstated,’ he told The Hollywood Reporter.

Roundtree was born in New York in 1942, beginning his acting career at the age of 21 and going on to become known as the ‘first Black action hero’ for his leaading role in the 1971 film.

richard roundtree
The star was credited as being the ‘first Black action hero’ (Picture: AP)
richard roundtree
Roundtree was best-known for starring in the Shaft film franchise (Picture: Everett/Shutterstock)

He was nominated for a Golden Globe for the new star of the year in 1972, following the release of Shaft – and went on to star in its four sequels, the latest coming in 2019.

As well as his film career, Roundtree was known for starring in TV show Roots, Heroes and US soap opera Generations, as well as sharing the screen with Clint Eastwood in 1984 film City Heat.

In 1993, the actor was diagnosed with breast cancer, for which he underwent chemotherapy and a double mastectomy.

The star was married twice: first to Mary Hane Grant in 1962, and then to Karen Ciernia in 1980; they divorced in 1998.

He leaves behind five children: two with first wife Grant, and three with second wife Ciernia.

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