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The late actor's rep confirmed his death in a statement shared with PEOPLE on Monday
Reubens' rep confirmed his death in a statement to PEOPLE on Monday, revealing that the actor had cancer for years before he died.
"Last night 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," read the statement.
"Paul bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit," it continued. "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 news was also confirmed on Reubens's official Instagram page.
Reubens created his iconic Pee-wee Herman character when he was a member of The Groundlings, which is a well-known Los Angeles improv group that has produced stars like Kristin Wiig, Lisa Kudrow, Maya Rudolph and Kathy Griffin. The Pee-wee Herman Show premiered at The Groundlings Theatre in 1981 and later moved to The Roxy on Sunset Strip before it landed an HBO broadcast, ultimately introducing the beloved character to a national audience.
Amid Reubens’s continued success with the character, he brought Pee-wee Herman to the big screen in 1985’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, directed by Tim Burton. He later created Pee-wee’s Playhouse for CBS, which ran from 1986 to 1990 for five seasons.
Pee-wee’s Playhouse earned 22 Emmy Awards during its run, with Reubens, personally, being nominated for an impressive 14 Emmy Awards. He ultimately won the honor twice.
Reubens brought the Pee-wee character back to the big screen in 1988’s Big Top Pee-wee, and later in 2015’s Judd Apatow-produced Netflix film Pee-wee's Big Holiday. An updated revival of The Pee-wee Herman Show also made its way to Broadway in the early 2010s.
Of playing the iconic character, Reubens once admitted he “had no idea” the role would have such longevity throughout his career.
“If anyone would have told me I’d be doing this 30 years later, I would have laughed,” he told Collider in 2015. “But now, I plan on doing it 30 years from now, when I’m 140.”
Reuben was not without his controversies. He was arrested in 1991 in Sarasota, Florida, for indecent exposure. He had specifically been caught masturbating while watching a film at an adult movie theater, but he pleaded no contest to the crime and avoided receiving a charge on his record. He was still required to complete 75 hours of community service.
Nearly a decade later, Reubens was arrested again in 2002 after child pornography material was found within his home. He turned himself in to the Los Angeles Police Department and was charged with a misdemeanor for the possession. The charges were dropped in 2004 after he pleaded guilty to a lesser misdemeanor obscenity charge.
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A rep for Reubens, who received a star on Hollywood’s Walk Of Fame in 1988, confirmed that he recently penned the first draft of his upcoming memoir. He had also put the finishing touches on two more Pee-wee movie scripts and was developing projects for television, including a variety show and a western called Fancypants.
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