In the 60s and 70s, a time and age when black people and all people of color, in general, were not getting their fair share of representation in the entertainment world, Richard Roundtree was among the few who got to land a number of notable roles regardless of the fact that they were in blaxploitation films. The most notable role that the New York native went on to play was that of the leather coat and camel turtleneck-wearing private detective John Shaft in Shaft (1971).
His excellent portrayal of the character not only earned him the title of the first black action hero but most importantly, a Golden Globe Award nomination. This went a long way in putting Roundtree’s name ahead of that of his peers as he enjoyed a career that has spanned over five decades. Read on to find out more about Richard Roundtree, including details of his net worth and how he has been able to make money off his recent Shaft movies.
How Richard Roundtree Earned His Net Worth
Celebrity wealth calculating websites have estimated Richard Roundtree’s net worth to be around $2 million. The actor’s journey to gaining millionaire status began after he dropped out of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois in 1963. He did so in order to launch a career as an actor and model.
Roundtree’s first modeling job came after he was scouted by the founder and director of Ebony Fashion Fair, Eunice W. Johnson. After gaining fame from appearing in the fair, he moved to model products such as Salem Cigarettes and Duke Hair Grease. By 1967, the budding model joined the newly established Negro Ensemble Company and went on to play a number of roles. His first and most notable role was that of boxing legend Jack Johnson in the company’s production of The Great White Hope.
In the following years, Richard Roundtree bagged the career-defining role of detective John Shaft in Shaft (1971) which was based on a novel of the same name by Ernest Tidyman. Thanks to a performance that earned him a nomination for New Star of the Year – Actor at the 1972 Golden Globe Awards, the actor was able to reprise the role that was described as “Hotter than Bond, Cooler than Bullitt” in the sequels; Shaft’s Big Score! (1972) and Shaft in Africa (1973). He further played the character in a short-lived television show that ran from 1973 to 1974.
In the 80s, after gaining fame and fortune from his appearance in the Shaft movies, Richard Roundtree appeared in a number of other movies, most notably Inchon (1981) alongside Laurence Olivier and Ben Gazzara and City Heat (1984) with Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds. In the 90s he notably appeared in Sins of the Night (1993), Se7en (1995), and George of the Jungle (1997).
His Earnings From Other Recent Shaft Movie Sequels
In 2000, almost three decades after the first Shaft movie was made, it was announced that there would be a remake of the action thriller film. Samuel L. Jackson was cast to play the lead character, NYPD Detective John Shaft II, the supposed nephew of Richard Roundtree’s character. The original Shaft actor also appeared in the film that received generally positive reviews and opened number-one at the box office, making $107.2 million from a production budget of $46 million. While it is not clear how much he was paid to appear in the remake, it is believed that Roundtree was handsomely rewarded, enough to ensure that he was willing to return to set if a sequel was to be made.
As things would pan out, a sequel of the remake was made nineteen years later in 2019. The latest version centered around John “JJ” Shaft Jr, an FBI agent and son of John Shaft II. Shaft Jr. was portrayed by actor Jessie Usher while both Jackson and Roundtree reprised their roles as Shaft II and Shaft I, respectively. In this film, it was revealed that Richard Roundtree’s character was actually the biological father of Jackson’s character, stating that the older Shaft spent many years pretending to be his uncle.