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‘The Mack’ star Max Julien dies at age 88

A black-and-white image of a man wearing sunglasses and a patterned shirt
Max Julien as Goldie in 1973’s “The Mack.”
(Michael Ochs Archives / American International Pictures/Getty Images)

Max Julien, star of “The Mack” and pioneer of the blaxploitation film genre, died Saturday. He was 88 years old.

The actor, writer and producer’s death was confirmed New Year’s Day by his longtime friend David F. Walker, a comic book author and filmmaker who paid tribute to Julien on Instagram. Walker did not specify the cause of death.

“I met Max back in 1996,” he wrote. “He was a great human being, and we had so many amazing conversations. He was brilliant and hilarious and charismatic ... R.I.P.”

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In the 1973 classic “The Mack,” Julien played John “Goldie” Mickens, a formerly incarcerated man on a mission to become Oakland’s No. 1 pimp. The beloved title also starred comedy legend Richard Pryor as Goldie’s partner in crime, Slim.

Forty years after opening in Oakland, the influential film that first portrayed the black underworld will be screened at LACMA.

Forty years after “The Mack” premiered, director Michael Campus fondly remembered opening the movie where it was shot: Oakland. The groundbreaking film has retained a loyal following and influenced artists such as Tupac, Jadakiss, Too Short, Jay-Z and Quentin Tarantino.

“The first scene came on with Richie and Max and — I am not exaggerating — the whole audience stood up and started screaming back at the screen,” Campus told the Los Angeles Times in 2013.

“They never sat down. No one had shown that world — no one had portrayed the black underworld.”

With the massive success of “Black Panther” and “Get Out” — and even the raunchy comedy “Girls Trip” — Hollywood is experiencing a renaissance in black film.

In addition to starring in “The Mack,” Julien is also credited as a writer and producer on two other blaxploitation features, “Thomasine & Bushrod” and “Cleopatra Jones.” The former starred Julien and Vonetta McGee — who dated in the 1970s — as a pair of Robin Hood-esque outlaws in the Wild West.

Julien appeared in a number of other small- and big-screen projects, including “The Black Klansman,” “Getting Straight,” “Uptight” and “How to Be a Player.” His final performance was a guest appearance in the early-2000s sitcom “One on One.”

Off-screen, Julien was also an author, sculptor and fashion designer. He is survived by his wife, Arabella Chavers Julien.


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