Hollywood is mourning the loss of a bright star.
"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," a message posted to his Instagram and Facebook pages July 31 read. "Paul bravely and privately fought cancer for years with his trademark tenacity and wit."
"A gifted and prolific talent," the note continued, "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 the comments of the heartbreaking Instagram announcement, many fans and fellow stars paid tribute to Reubens, including actress D'Arcy Carden who responded with three heart emojis.
Model Karen Elson also commented, "Oh Paul. My heart breaks."
"Thank you for the joy," she continued, "the laughs and making me smile on my birthday with your sweet messages without fail every year."
In the late ‘70s, after beginning his career as part of the improv troupe The Groundlings, he debuted Pee-wee Herman, which quickly earned a cult following. He continued to capture the heart of audiences with Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Big Top Pee-wee and Pee-wee's Playhouse.
Looking back at the evolution of his popular character, Reubens told Collider in 2016 it would've been "impossible" to imagine a new generation of audience members discovering Pee-wee Herman.
"Part of me wishes that I could say yes to that, but no," he said, "I didn't have any idea."
Over the years, Reubens retreated from the spotlight as he faced legal troubles. In 1991, he was arrested at a movie theater in Florida for indecent exposure, NBC News reported. He later pleaded no contest.
More than a decade later, in 2004, Reubens pleaded guilty to a "misdemeanor obscenity charge involving photographs of minors engaged in sexual conduct were seized from him," according to NBC News. He was sentenced to three years of probation.
In Feb. 2015, after more than two decades away from the big screen, Reubens and producer Judd Apatow announced Pee-wee Herman's return for Pee-Wee's Big Holiday.
"It's a road-trip movie across the country. It's very similar in style and tone to Pee-wee's Big Adventure. But it's not about a bicycle," Reubens told Entertainment Weekly at the time. "I never really thought of Big Adventure as a family movie, but I didn't try to make an adult movie or a kid movie. We wanted to make something that appealed to a wide age range, and I think that's the case with this movie also."
"It's been really really gratifying and exciting, and it's kept me going," he added. "The kid's show went back on the air on Netflix right before Christmas. I did not realize the show being on Netflix would be like being back on television. Every day I get hundreds of notes from people on Facebook and Twitter, all over the place, 'My 3-year-old, my 4-year-old...' and that's super exciting to think that kids are going to see it now who didn't know about it before."