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Blaxploitation icon Max Julien dies at 88

American actor and artist Max Julien, best known for his unforgettable performance as Goldie in the blaxploitation gem The Mack, has died at the age of 88.

Born in 1933 in Washington D.C., Julien started out with off-Broadway productions after gaining classical training as an actor. Eventually, Julien graduated to film roles and managed to star alongside the likes of Jack Nicholson in Psych-Out and kept his film career moving with other projects such as the 1970 comedy Getting Straight.

However, the highlight of his time as an actor is definitely The Mack which remains a major part of Julien’s legacy. Now regarded as one of the most badass Blaxploitation works of all time, The Mack starred Julien as Goldie – a man who returns to Oakland, California, after spending five years in prison and sets out to become the biggest pimp around while his brother is devoted to the Black nationalist movement.

During the making of The Mack, the production was even disrupted by the Black Panther Party and was only shown in predominantly Black communities when it came out. Despite the selective screenings, the director Michael Campus maintained that he was proud of the fact that it outgrossed The Godfather wherever it did play.

Apart from acting, Julien was also a practising poet, writer and sculptor who also worked as a fashion designer. He was also a film producer and screenwriter who was nominated for the Best Writer award by the NAACP for his fantastic work on the 1974 western Thomasine & Bushrod which was made as a response to Arthur Penn’s seminal Bonnie and Clyde.

“I didn’t mind being called a militant, because I am a militant,” Julien once said in an interview. He defended the blaxploitation genre against attacks, claiming that Melvin Van Peebles’ 1971 masterpiece Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song saved Hollywood at a time when the industry was floundering and asking for subsidisations.