A Disney actor’s surprising cause of death has finally been revealed more than one month following his passing.
When a Hollywood actor dies, he is often remembered for notable films in which he starred or for films he directed or produced. But when a Hollywood actor who doubles as a comedian dies, sometimes he’s remembered more for the persona he created as part of his career–especially if that persona is one that was well-received and popular during that career. Such is the case for the late actor and comedian Paul Reubens.
Paul Reubens died on July 31, 2023, at the age of 70. Reubens was known as an actor, a comedian, and as the character he created and embodied throughout his career–Pee-Wee Herman. Now, nearly six weeks after his passing, his cause of death has been revealed.
Death Certificate Reveals a Shocking Cause
Per his death certificate, Reubens’s primary cause of death was Acute Myelogenous Leukemia, often referred to as AML. AML is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that progresses rapidly and affects certain white blood cells called myeloid cells, which normally develop into mature blood cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. The late actor was also battling lung cancer that had spread to other organs in his body.
His immediate cause of death is listed as acute hypoxic respiratory failure, which makes it difficult for the patient’s lungs to release the correct amount of oxygen into the bloodstream.
Many of Reubens’s fans were shocked to learn that the actor had cancer, as he had kept his nearly six-year battle very private.
A Career 40+ Years in the Making
The world had never heard of Pee-Wee Herman until 1981 when Reubens debuted the character at The Groundlings Theatre before landing a deal with HBO. The character went on to star in the 1985 movie, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and its sequel Big Top Pee-Wee.
Reubens’s had many Disney credits to his name–on the big screen, the small screen, and across Disney’s many theme park resorts. Per Disney Fandom’s wiki:
For Disney, he provided the voice of RX-24, the droid captain of the StarSpeeder 3000 in the Star Tours attraction found at the Disney theme parks Disneyland, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris. He later reprised this role in the Star Wars Rebels episode “Droids in Distress.” He also voiced Fife in the 1997 midquel “Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas.” He also played Lock in “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Oogie’s Revenge,” the Milkman in “Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero,” Max in Disney’s “Flight of the Navigator,” Pavel in “Tron: Uprising,” Dennis in the 2004 film “Teacher’s Pet: The Movie,” Couch Dracula in “Pickle and Peanut,” Mr. Herodotus in the “Hercules” TV series, and Professor Parenthesis in the “Phineas and Ferb” episode special “O.W.C.A. Files.”
Additionally, he played the Pinball City Proprietor in “Midnight Madness” and voiced the titular character in test footage of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”
“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,” his rep told PEOPLE in a statement at the time. “Paul bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit,” the statement 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.”
In a statement written by Reubens that was issued after his death, the 70-year-old actor apologized to his fans for his secrecy as he battled cancer:
“Please accept my apology for not going public with what I’ve been facing the last six years,” Reubens 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 was cremated, and his remains were interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Other famous celebrities like Dee Dee Ramone, Judy Garland, and Mickey Rooney were also interred at the historic cemetery,