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|Also Known As:||James Coburn Jr.||Died:||November 19, 2002|
|Born:||August 31, 1928||Cause of Death:||heart attack|
|Birth Place:||Laurel, Nebraska, USA||Profession:||actor, director, TV commercial spokesperson, producer|
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arts to the director¿s debilitating alcoholism and his adversarial relationship with executives at MGM. Suffering from studio-imposed time and budgetary constraints, the hastily edited version released in theaters was disastrously received, severely damaging Peckinpah¿s already tarnished reputation. That same year saw Coburn leading an all-star cast that included Raquel Welch, Dyan Cannon, James Mason, and Richard Benjamin in the glossy, albeit empty, who-done-it, "The Last of Sheila" (1973), co-written by actor Anthony Perkins and stage lyricist Stephen Sondheim.Coburn was dealt a personal blow that summer when his close friend and martial arts trainer, kung fu legend Bruce Lee, died suddenly just weeks before his breakthrough film "Enter the Dragon" (1973) was to be released. For years, he and Lee had worked on a film project based on a story they had co-written, along with screenwriting veteran Sterling Silliphant, entitled "The Silent Flute." Years earlier a training injury of Lee¿s and scheduling conflicts of Coburn¿s had derailed the effort, however, with Lee¿s death, the film that had been tailored with roles for both actors would seemingly never see production. On a lighter note, Coburn...
arts to the director¿s debilitating alcoholism and his adversarial relationship with executives at MGM. Suffering from studio-imposed time and budgetary constraints, the hastily edited version released in theaters was disastrously received, severely damaging Peckinpah¿s already tarnished reputation. That same year saw Coburn leading an all-star cast that included Raquel Welch, Dyan Cannon, James Mason, and Richard Benjamin in the glossy, albeit empty, who-done-it, "The Last of Sheila" (1973), co-written by actor Anthony Perkins and stage lyricist Stephen Sondheim.
Coburn was dealt a personal blow that summer when his close friend and martial arts trainer, kung fu legend Bruce Lee, died suddenly just weeks before his breakthrough film "Enter the Dragon" (1973) was to be released. For years, he and Lee had worked on a film project based on a story they had co-written, along with screenwriting veteran Sterling Silliphant, entitled "The Silent Flute." Years earlier a training injury of Lee¿s and scheduling conflicts of Coburn¿s had derailed the effort, however, with Lee¿s death, the film that had been tailored with roles for both actors would seemingly never see production. On a lighter note, Coburn joined other notable faces, including horror film legend Christopher Lee, on the iconic album cover of Paul McCartney & Wings¿ platinum-selling 1973 album, Band on the Run. Returning to the big screen, he once again embraced the role of villain in a paean to the Western "The Last Hard Men" (1976), co-starring Charlton Heston. Despite the disappointments of their last collaboration, he re-teamed with Peckinpah once more for the unconventional WWII drama "Cross of Iron" (1977). In the film, Coburn portrayed a Nazi soldier under the command of a self-serving officer (Maximilian Schell), who finds himself torn between duty and his conscience. Although the movie garnered critical acclaim in addition to box office success in Europe, it was poorly received by U.S. audiences, much to the disappointment of Coburn and his embattled director.
Coburn next made his first television appearance in years as the star of the miniseries "The Dain Curse" (CBS, 1978), a mystery based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett. Overcoming the inherent difficulties of the novel¿s exceptionally byzantine plot, the TV movie went on to win an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America, in addition to several Emmy nominations. The release of the action-fantasy "Circle of Iron" (1979) was surely a bittersweet moment for Coburn. Based on the long-dormant story for "The Silent Flute," the substandard effort starred an inadequate David Carradine in the role originally intended for Bruce Lee. Ironically, it would earn Coburn his one and only film writing credit. Coburn's professional output tapered off over the next decade, due in large part to the debilitating effects of a 10-year battle with severe rheumatoid arthritis, which he eventually found a modicum of relief from years later with the help of homeopathic therapies. The brief appearances he did make during that period included a cameo as a South American drug lord robbed by James Brolin and his cash-strapped friends in the action-adventure "High Risk" (1981). He was also seen more frequently on television, where he hosted the supernatural anthology series "Darkroom" (ABC, 1981-82), and essayed a ruthless businessman in the drama "Sins of the Father" (NBC, 1985).
By the start of the next decade, Coburn increased his visibility with a lengthy string of supporting character roles. He revisited familiar territory as a cattle baron intent on bringing down Billy the Kid (Emilio Estevez) in the Brat Pack Western sequel "Young Guns II" (1990), followed by a turn as a sinister CIA agent in the Bruce Willis box-office disaster "Hudson Hawk" (1991). Coburn also lent his considerable comedic talents to the unworthy sequel "Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit" (1993), and the needless remake "The Nutty Professor" (1996), starring Eddie Murphy in the role originally perfected by Jerry Lewis. However, two years later and more than four decades into his career, Coburn would stun audiences and critics with his devastating portrayal of an abusive alcoholic in the Paul Schrader psychological drama "Affliction" (1998). As Glen "Pop" Whitehouse, the unrelentingly cruel father of small town sheriff Nick Nolte, the actor delivered what many considered his finest performance, in a dark character study of buried secrets, long-festering wounds, and self-discovery. For his exceptional work in the difficult film, Coburn won his only Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
With renewed vigor, Coburn worked practically non-stop in the years that followed. The veteran actor employed his unmistakable baritone to menacing effect in the Disney/Pixar animated feature "Monsters, Inc." (2001), as the voice of villainous CEO Henry J. Waternoose III. Coburn took on pivotal roles in projects such as "The Man from Elysian Fields" (2002), in which he played a venerated novelist whose wife (Olivia Williams) engages in an affair with a much younger, aspiring writer (Andy Garcia). Despite his recent stature as an Oscar-winning thespian, Coburn seemed happy to take part in less-than-stellar productions, as evidenced by a turn in the sled dog comedy "Snow Dogs" (2002), starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. Proving he still had the gravitas to carry a film, the 74-year-old Coburn starred as a WWII veteran tracing the ownership of the gun used in the killing of his daughter (Virginia Madsen) in director Alan Jacobs' drama "American Gun" (2004). The film would be his last. On Nov. 18, 2002, Coburn died of a heart attack while listening to music and playing his flute at his home in Beverly Hills.directed by the mercurial Sam Peckinpah, whose clashes with both Heston and the studio during the film¿s production became legendary. For his part, however, Coburn grew quite fond of Peckinpah, and later stated that he felt much of his best work came from his collaborations with the trouble filmmaker.
The following year, Coburn was finally given the chance to carry a film as its leading man in the spy spoof "Our Man Flint" (1966). As the suave and sexy super agent Derek Flint, the actor adroitly skewered the James Bond craze of the day and explicitly influenced comedian Mike Myers¿ "Austin Powers" films three decades later. Thus, Coburn entered a phase in which he headlined quirky comedies such as the Blake Edwards WWII satire "What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?" (1966) and the inevitable sequel, "In Like Flint" (1967). In a move that spoke volumes about Coburn¿s character, he turned down a third outing as Flint ¿ a film series that, despite its financial success, he disliked greatly ¿ in order to pursue more challenging projects. One of those was the conspiracy theory comedy "The President¿s Analyst" (1967), which he produced under his own banner, Panpiper Productions. Under-appreciated through the years, the film was an incisive satire in which Coburn, as the Commander in Chief¿s shrink, discovers that the shadowy entity pulling the strings in a global power structure is none other than the phone company. He next attempted to take a page from McQueen¿s book of cool with a turn as a charming criminal in the lighthearted caper "Duffy" (1968).
After a string of less notable films over the turn of the decade, Coburn teamed with the king of the "spaghetti Western," Italian director Sergio Leone and co-star Rod Steiger for the explosively fun "Duck, You Sucker" (1972) ¿ better known in the U.S. as "A Fistful of Dynamite." He continued with the Western genre in the less bombastic, although equally volatile "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" (1973), which paired him once again with Peckinpah. Coburn played Garrett, the past-his-prime gunslinger sent to bring down his former friend, notorious outlaw Billy the Kid (Kris Kristofferson). From the start, the film¿s production was troubled due in equal p
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In 1979, Coburn started suffering from severe rheumatoid arthritis which has at times left him debilitated. In 1998, a holistic healer started him on a dietary supplement , which has resulted in a drastic improvement in his condition. He told The Associated Press in a 1999 interview that he had "healed himself" by taking sulfur-based pills. Although his knuckles remained gnarled, the pills cured him of the excruciating pain.
Coburn was a pallbearer at Bruce Lee's funeral
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