The Heart-Wrenching Death Of Max Julien

Actor Max Julien shot to fame with the leading role in the 1973 Blaxploitation film, "The Mack" (via YouTube). His role as Goldie, the broad-hatted, cane-wielding Oakland ex-con who battles cops and mobsters alike, helped define the gleefully vulgar genre, setting a new crime-comedy precedent for filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and inspiring 1990s rap superstars like Snoop Dogg. "The Mack" also gave comedian Richard Pryor one of his first major screen roles. Julien would go on to perform in other Blaxploitation roles, like "The Black Klansman," per TMZ.

When Julien died on New Year's Day 2022, his friend David F. Walker broke the news on Instagram, calling Julien "brilliant and hilarious and charismatic." A press release issued later that day called the 88-year-old actor "bold, honest and straightforward. He would live and speak his own truth, both professionally and privately. He was thought of as a rare 'man among men'" (via TMZ).

More to the man than Goldie

As Hollywood Reporter noted, Max Julien was far more than a movie screen gangster. Born in Washington, D.C., Julien was an accomplished stage actor, appearing in several Shakespeare in the Park plays put on by the legendary producer Joseph Papp. Julien found success as a screenwriter as well, penning the 1973 popular Blaxploitation romp "Cleopatra Jones," about a female police agent who battles a lesbian drug lord named Mommy. 

Outside of acting, Julien turned his creative powers to everything from fashion design to poetry and sculpture (via Far Out). Politically, too, Julien made waves. The NAACP recognized his accomplishments with a nomination for its Best Writer award in 1974. The Black Panther Party disrupted production of "The Mack," denouncing what they saw as a celebration of gross stereotypes and exploitation. Julien continued to defend the genre from critics of all political persuasions, defining himself as a "militant" for civil rights.