Max Julien, star of ‘The Mack,’ passes away at 88
Max Julien, the lead of what many consider to be the greatest blaxploitation film of all time, The Mack, passed away early on New Year’s Day, according to the actor’s wife, Arabella Chavers Julien. The cause of death remains undetermined.
The Mack rose above lesser examples of the blaxploitation genre, offering audiences all the entertainment of genre standouts like Shaft and Superfly but also offering trenchant social commentary more akin to Melvin Peebles’ classic, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. Alex McLevy of AV Club describes The Mack as, “a smartly executed and deeply ambitious story of crime, corruption, and prostitution, shot on location in Oakland, California.” McLevy goes on to state that, “In its vision, The Mack provides a clear antecedent for ’90s crime-and-condemnation films like New Jack City and Boyz N The Hood.”
Julien starred as the film’s protagonist, John “Goldie” Mickens, who emerges from prison with a plan to consolidate money and power in Oakland. As Goldie rises to power, he finds himself facing corrupt law enforcement as well as Black Nationalist forces seeking to remove drugs and prostitution from the neighborhood.
Julien, born Maxwell Banks, was a classically trained actor who began his career off-Broadway before moving out west to appear in such films as 1968’s Psych-Out opposite Richard Pryor. After appearing in The Mack, the actor went on to pen and produce another renowned offering in the blaxploitation genre, Cleopatra Jones.
The Mack and Julien’s performance as Goldie went on to inform the personas of a generation of hip hop and rap performers, with Diddy and Too Short acknowledging his inspiration. LL Cool J, Snoop Dogg, and Public Enemy have all sampled the actor’s dialogue in their work.
In addition to his work as a filmmaker, Julien was an author, poet, and sculptor. In a statement released to TMZ on Saturday, the actor’s representation stated that Julien “would live and speak his own truth both professionally and privately. He was thought of as a rare ‘man among men.’” The actor is survived by his wife, Arabella.