James Harrison Coburn, Jr. (August 31, 1928 – November 18, 2002) was an American film and television actor who appeared in nearly 70 films and made over 100 television appearances in his 45-year career. Perhaps best remembered for his natural charisma and charm, he played a wide range of roles and won an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance in Affliction (1998). […]
Due to severe rheumatoid arthritis, he was featured in very few films during the 1980s. Though Coburn’s hands were clearly visibly gnarled in film appearances in the last years of his career, the sturdy actor continued working nonetheless. He spent much of his time writing songs with British singer-songwriter Lynsey De Paul and doing television such as his work on Darkroom. He claimed to have healed himself with pills containing a sulfur-based compound and returned to the screen in the 1990s, appearing in films such as Young Guns II, Sister Act 2, Maverick, The Nutty Professor, Affliction (for which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his vivid portrayal of the abusive father of Nick Nolte) and Payback, mostly in minor but memorable roles. Affliction also saw Coburn receive Best Supporting Actor nominations at the Independent Spirit Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
“All of the sudden I couldn’t walk,” Coburn said. “I mean I could walk, but it was so painful. And then standing up got to be such a dreadful thing, I said, ‘My God, something’s wrong here.’ So I went to see a Beverly Hills doctor, and he says, ‘You’ve got rheumatoid arthritis.'”
That diagnosis came 30 years ago, when the actor was in the prime of his life, reported CBS 2 News’ Michael Tuck. Coburn’s most popular work had been as top-secret spy Derek Flint in the comedy adventure series “Our Man Flint” and “In Like Flint.” For an action star, the news was devastating. […]
“At it’s worst, how bad was the arthritis?” Tuck asked.
“I couldn’t stand without breaking into a sweat. Fast movement was very painful. It didn’t matter what I was doing, if I was standing or sitting or moving my arms or anything,” Coburn replied.
“This must have devastated your career,” Tuck said.
“Oh, it did. I absolutely couldn’t work,” said Coburn. “I’d do things like little cameo things where I didn’t have to move very much. I could just talk.”