Oscar winner James Coburn dies. The veteran Hollywood tough guy, who finally took home a Best Supporting Actor award for 1998's ''Affliction,'' was 74

By Gary Susman
Updated November 19, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST
James Coburn: Lockwood/Globe Photos

James Coburn, whose 40-year career playing movie tough guys was capped with a 1998 Oscar for his role as Nick Nolte’s abusive dad in ”Affliction,” died Monday of a heart attack, Reuters reports. The 74-year-old actor had been relaxing at his Beverly Hills home, listening to music with his wife, when he suffered his fatal coronary, his business manager, Hillard Elkins, told Reuters. ”He died happy,” Elkins said.

The Nebraska-born actor’s lanky frame and deep, barking voice made him a natural in action-oriented Westerns, war movies, and spy thrillers. His big break came with a nearly silent role as a knife-throwing mercenary in 1960’s ”The Magnificent Seven.” ”I had 11 lines. That was it,” he recalled in a 2001 Entertainment Weekly interview. ”But it was all action. It doesn’t matter how many lines you’ve got: It’s how you perform, what performance you put forward.” In the mid-1960s, he would tweak both his own image and the newly popular James Bond movies as Derek Flint in the spy spoofs ”In Like Flint” and ”Our Man Flint.”

Coburn sat out much of the ’80s and ’90s due to crippling rheumatoid arthritis. After his Best Supporting Actor win, he enjoyed something of a comeback, surprisingly, in Disney films. He did voice work in last year’s ”Monsters, Inc.” and appeared opposite Cuba Gooding Jr. in this year’s hit ”Snow Dogs,” and was reportedly gearing up for a sequel. Instead, his last role may be in ”The Man From Elysian Fields,” currently in theaters, in which he plays a terminally ill novelist.

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