Paul Reubens, who was best known for playing the nerdy and eccentric character Pee-wee Herman, has died, according to a statement posted on his Facebook page Monday and his agent. He was 70.
“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,” the Facebook post said.
The statement said Reubens died Sunday night after privately fighting cancer.
“Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years,” Reubens said in the Facebook post. “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 played Pee-wee Herman, a wacky man who dressed in his trademark gray suit, red bow tie and white loafers, in Tim Burton’s 1985 movie “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.” The movie’s plot took Pee-wee on an adventure as he hunted down his stolen bike.
Following the movie’s success, Reubens played Pee-wee in the Saturday morning TV show “Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” which ran for five seasons.
In 1991, he was arrested for exposing himself inside an adult movie theater in Florida. He paid a fine, but the incident led Reubens to basically put the trademark gray suit away for nearly two decades.
“I wasn’t feeling it for a long time. And then all of a sudden it became a long time. All of a sudden I was like, ‘Wow. How do you come back now out of this?’ And you know what the answer was? You just do it,” hein 2010, when he brought Pee-wee to Broadway. “I didn’t feel like I needed anyone’s permission to come back. And what do I have to lose? Nothing really.”
The following year, “The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway” aired on television and was nominated for an Emmy.
In the 2010 interview, Reubens said the movie theater incident didn’t end his career. In 1995, he was nominated for an Emmy for a guest role on “Murphy Brown.” In 1992’s “Batman Returns,” directed by Burton, he played the father of Oswald Cobblepot, aka the Penguin, and he acted alongside Johnny Depp as their characters created a cocaine empire in 2001’s “Blow.”
In 2004, Reubens pleaded guilty to an obscenity misdemeanor over images in his possession, but he continued acting on TV, appearing in such shows as “30 Rock,” “Portlandia,” “The Blacklist” andas the Penguin’s father in “Gotham.” In 2016, he starred in the Netflix movie “ .”