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Pee-wee Herman actor Paul Reubens dies from cancer at 70

US actor Paul Reubens died on Sunday night, years after he had been diagnosed with cancer, according to his team

Reported By : PTI Written By : India TV Entertainment Desk
New Delhi
Published on: August 01, 2023 12:42 IST
Paul Reubens
Image Source : TWITTER Paul Reubens

Paul Reubens, the actor and comedian whose character Pee-wee Herman became a cultural phenomenon through films and TV shows, has died. He was 70. Reubens died Sunday night after a six-year struggle with cancer that he did not make public, his publicist said in a statement.

“Please accept my apology for not going public with what I've been facing the last six years,” Reubens said in a statement released Monday with the announcement of his death. “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.”

The character with his too-tight gray suit, white chunky loafers and red bow tie was best known for the film “Pee-wee's Big Adventure” and the television series “Pee-wee's Playhouse.” The character would become a cultural constant for much of the 1980s, though an indecent exposure arrest in 1991 would send him into entertainment exile for years.

Herman created Pee-wee when he was part of the Los Angeles improv group The Groundlings in the late 1970s. The live “Pee-wee Herman Show” debuted at a Los Angeles theater in 1981 and was a success with both kids during matinees and adults at a midnight show.

The show closely resembled the format the Saturday morning TV “Pee-wee's Playhouse” would follow years later, with Herman living in a wild and wacky home with a series of stock-character visitors, including one, Captain Karl, played by the late “Saturday Night Live” star Phil Hartman. In the plot, Pee-wee secretly wishes to fly.

HBO would air the show as a special. “Pee Wee got his wish to fly,” Steve Martin tweeted after his death. Thanks Paul Reubens for the brilliant off the wall comedy. Reubens took Pee-wee to the big screen in 1985's “Pee-wee's Big Adventure.” The film, in which Pee-wee's cherished bike is stolen, was said to be loosely based on Vittorio De Sica's Italian neo-realist classic, “The Bicycle Thief.” 

The film, directed by Tim Burton and co-written by Phil Hartman of “Saturday Night Live,” sent Pee-wee on a nationwide escapade.

The movie was a success, grossing $40 million, and continued to spawn a cult following for its oddball whimsy.

A sequel followed three years later in the less well-received “Big Top Pee-wee,” in which Pee-wee seeks to join a circus. Reubens' character wouldn't get another movie starring role until 2016's Pee-wee's Big Holiday,” for Netflix. Judd Apatow produced Pee-wee's big-screen revival.

His television series, “Pee-wee's Playhouse,” ran for five seasons, earned 22 Emmys and attracted not only children but adults to Saturday-morning TV.

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