Actor Paul Reubens has died of cancer at the age of 70. The performer was best known for his portrayal of the Pee-wee Herman character in film and television appearances beginning in the 1980s.
In a statement posted on Instagram after his death, Reubens apologized for keeping his diagnosis private. “Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years,” he wrote.
“I have always felt a huge amount of love and respect from my friends, fans and supporters. I have loved you all so much and enjoyed making art for you.”
Reubens’s estate added these words to his posting: “Last night [July 30] we said farewell to Paul Reubens, an iconic American actor, comedian, writer and producer whose beloved character Pee-wee Herman delighted generations of children and adults with his positivity, whimsy and belief in the importance of kindness. Paul bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit.
A gifted and prolific talent, he will forever live in the comedy pantheon and in our hearts as a treasured friend and man of remarkable character and generosity of spirit.”
Reubens began his performing career in the 1970s as part of the Groundlings, a live comedy troupe based in Los Angeles. He launched The Pee-wee Herman Show in 1980 and made his film debut with the character in 1985, in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, directed by Tim Burton. Three years later, Randal Kleiser directed his second film, Big Top Pee-wee. From 1986 to 1990, he starred in Pee-wee’s Playhouse, a weekend morning show on CBS television. The show won 22 Emmy Awards during its five-season run.
In 1991, Reubens’ career was sidetracked when he was arrested for indecent exposure at an adult movie theater in Sarasota, Florida. After playing a few roles on television in the 1990s, he made a comeback in the 2001 film Blow, alongside Penelope Cruz and Johnny Depp, As part of the fallout after his arrest, Hermans did not return to the Pee-wee character until 2010, when The Pee-wee Herman Show opened on Broadway. His final film, Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, was released on Netflix in 2016, a sequel to his 1988 Big Top movie.
Over the years, Reubens starred in several other films, including the superhero comedy Mystery Man. He also appeared in Batman Returns, Buffy the Vampire Slaver, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Matilda. On television, he was seen in 30 Rock, The Blacklist, Pushing Daisies, Hercules, Rugrats, Reno 911! and What We Do in the Shadows.
At the time of his death, Hermans was developing two more Pee-wee Herman movie projects, a black comedy titled The Pee-wee Herman Story and a family adventure titled Pee-wee’s Playhouse: The Movie.
\Hermans is survived by his sister, Abby, and her wife, Helia; his brother Luke; and nieces Lily and Sarah.
Reubens requested that any donations in his memory be made in honor of his late parents, Judy and Milton Rubenfeld, to Stand Up to Cancer or other organizations involved in the causes of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
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