Who is the man that will risk his neck for his brother man? Shaft! Can you dig this? New Line Cinema is seeking to reboot the black private eye who’s a sex machine to all the ladies, according to Entertainment Weekly (EW).
Richard Roundtree made this cat Shaft into a bad ‘shut your mouth’ mother in the 1971 original that led to the birth of the ‘blaxploitation’ genre that spawned the careers of Pam Grier (Coffy, Foxy Brown), martial artist Jim Kelly (Enter the Dragon, Black Belt Jones), Ron O’Neal (Superfly), and former NFL players Jim Brown and Fred Williamson.
The theme from Shaft went to number-one in 1971 and made Issac Hayes the first African-American to win the Academy Award for ‘Best Original Song’.
Roundtree continued playing Shaft in 1972’s Shaft’s Big Score, 1973’s Shaft in Africa, and a short-lived series on CBS. He reprise the role in 2000’s Shaft from director John Singleton with Samuel L. Jackson as nephew John Shaft, who resigned from the New York Police Department to unleash his own brand of justice against a billionaire racist killer (Christian Bale). That movie ended with Shaft joining his uncle in the private detective business, which may have meant the possibility of a sequel, but despite the film’s success, it never happened.
You could say that playing super-cool super-sleuth Shaft led Jackson to the role of super-cool super-spy Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
And speaking of Marvel, Shaft’s popularity led to the creation of ‘Luke Cage – Hero For Hire’ in 1972, followed by Blade the next year. It was Blade who introduced Marvel to moviegoers thanks to Wesley Snipes as the half-human, half-vampire heroic slayer who declares ‘open season’ on the forces of evil. Released by New Line Cinema in the summer of 1998, Blade literally brought in fresh blood into the superhero genre: spawning Blade II (2002), Blade: Trinity (2004), a short-lived television series with Kirk ‘Sticky Fingaz’ Jones succeeding Snipes, who expressed interest in returning as the ‘Daywalker’.
To illustrate, Blade is like John Shaft … with more bite.
Here’s some ‘blaxploitation’ trivia: Fred Williamson and Ron O’ Neal had recurring roles as NYPD detectives on CBS’ The Equalizer with Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, an ex-spy who helps ordinary people who can’t help themselves. Last fall, the series was adapted onto the big screen with Oscar winner Denzel Washington as McCall; talks of a sequel is already in the works.