Max Julien, who starred with Richard Pryor in the iconic blaxploitation movie The Mack, died on New Year’s Day.
His wife Arabella found him that morning, his PR team told TMZ, but the precise cause of death has not been made public.
Although it is thought that the day of his death was also his 89th birthday, the website reports that he was in fact born in July.
Dearly departed: Max Julien, who starred with Richard Pryor in the iconic blaxploitation movie The Mack, died on New Year’s Day; he is pictured in 2004
‘During Julien’s decades-long career, he was known for being bold, honest and straightforward,’ said his PR team in a statement.
‘He would live and speak his own truth both professionally and privately. He was thought of as a rare “man among men.”‘
Max made his bones in the New York theater scene, including the famous Shakespeare In The Park productions Joe Papp began in the 1950s.
By the 1960s he had begun working in Hollywood, making his big screen debut with a supporting role in the 1966 film The Black Klansman.
Classic: In 1973 he led the cast of The Mack as Goldie, who embarks on a career as a pimp after five years behind bars
Two years later he was acclaimed for his lead turn as a black revolutionary in Up Tight!, which is set amid the riots following Martin Luther King’s assassination.
Max himself had some knowledge of the milieu – in an interview in the 1990s he revealed he was ‘close friends’ with Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton.
A further half-decade on he led the cast of The Mack as Goldie, who embarks on a career as a pimp after five years behind bars.
Goldie became Max’ most famous role amid a cast that also featured Juanita Moore as his mother and Richard Pryor as his business partner Slim.
Making a splash: Max, who is pictured in the film with Carol Speed, delivered a performance that became a major influence on hip hop
Meanwhile Goldie’s brother Olinga, a black nationalist who wants pimps and pushers off the street, is played by Roger E. Mosley who was best known for Magnum PI.
That very same year Max helped write and produce the original Cleopatra Jones film starring Tamara Dobson in the title role – another blaxploitation classic.
Years afterward Max gave an interview to S. Pearl Sharp defending the legacy of the blaxploitation movement of which he was such an iconic member.
He argued: ‘1971, Hollywood was dying, looking for subsidization from the government, and suddenly somebody came along, God bless him, called Melvin Van Peebles. Okay? He did a film, and whatever you might think of it, called Sweet Sweetback’s Baad*sssss Song and it turned this entire industry around.’
Legend in his own time: Goldie became Max’ most famous role amid a cast that also featured Richard Pryor as his business partner Slim
Max shared: ‘And suddenly they said: “Wow! There are black people out there who go and see movies!” Like we hadn’t been going all the time, right? And suddenly black films were being made and made and made and made and nobody’s giving credit to the fact that those films literally saved Hollywood.’
Although Max made a few films after The Mack, including the 1974 western Thomasine And Bushrod, it was Goldie who echoed down the generations.
Rappers galore from Snoop Dogg to Dr. Dre have been influenced by Goldie, and Max was in fact personal friends with Snoop as well.
Other work: Max made a few films after The Mack, including the 1974 western Thomasine And Bushrod which he is pictured on the poster for with Vonetta McGee
Michael Campus, who directed the film, shared in a behind-the-scenes documentary that Max and Richard were instrumental to the screenplay.
‘We wrote the last five drafts of the script, basically Max and Richard and myself,’ said Michael, although Robert J. Poole is the credited screenwriter.
The character was based on a real-life pimp called Frank Ward, who assisted the production by providing extras and allowing it to be filmed on his turf.
Candor: ‘If you really look at it,’ said Max of The Mack, ‘there was a sadness about me throughout the whole film ’cause that’s where I was as a human being and I couldn’t hide it’
But while the movie was being made Frank himself was shot in the head in the middle of night while he sat in a Rolls-Royce with his girlfriend.
Max reflected that ‘I really believed in my heart that if Frank had chosen another way of life he could’ve made a major contribution to the world. You know, he was one of those kind of people. He was an extraordinary human being, you know?’
‘If you really look at it,’ said Max, ‘there was a sadness about me throughout the whole film ’cause that’s where I was as a human being and I couldn’t hide it. That is me and I think that’s really what people have related to.’