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James Coburn Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trade Mark (4) | Trivia (45) | Personal Quotes (17) | Salary (1)

Overview (4)

Born in Laurel, Nebraska, USA
Died in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameJames Harrison Coburn III
Height 6' 2" (1.88 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Lanky, charismatic and versatile actor with an amazing grin that put everyone at ease, James Coburn studied acting at UCLA, and then moved to New York to study under noted acting coach Stella Adler. After being noticed in several stage productions, Coburn appeared in a handful of minor westerns before being cast as the knife-throwing, quick-shooting Britt in the John Sturges mega-hit The Magnificent Seven (1960). Sturges remembered Coburn's talents when he cast his next major film project, The Great Escape (1963), where Coburn played the Australian POW Sedgewick. Regular work now came thick and fast for Coburn, including appearing in Major Dundee (1965), the first of several films he appeared in directed by Hollywood enfant terrible Sam Peckinpah. The next two years were a key period for Coburn, with his performances in the wonderful 007 spy spoof Our Man Flint (1966) and the eerie Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966). Coburn followed up in 1967 with a Flint sequel, In Like Flint (1967), and the much underrated political satire The President's Analyst (1967). The remainder of the 1960s was rather uneventful for Coburn. However, he became associated with martial arts legend Bruce Lee and the two trained together, traveled extensively and even visited India scouting locations for a proposed film project, but Lee's untimely death (Coburn, along with Steve McQueen, was a pallbearer at Lee's funeral) put an end to that.

The 1970s saw Coburn appearing again in several strong roles, starting off in Peckinpah's Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973), alongside Charles Bronson in the Depression-era Hard Times (1975) and as a disenchanted German soldier on the Russian front in Peckinpah's superb Cross of Iron (1977). Towards the end of the decade, however, Coburn was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which severely hampered his health and work output for many years. After conventional treatments failed, Coburn turned to a holistic therapist, and through a restructured diet program, made a definite improvement. By the 1990s he was once again appearing regularly in both film and TV productions.

No one was probably more surprised than Coburn himself when he was both nominated for, and then won, the Best Supporting Actor Award in 1997 for playing Nick Nolte's abusive and alcoholic father in Affliction (1997). At 70 years of age, Coburn's career received another shot in the arm, and he appeared in another 14 films, including Snow Dogs (2002) and The Man from Elysian Fields (2001), before his death from a heart attack in November of 2002. Coburn's passions in life included martial arts, card playing and enjoying fine Cuban cigars!

- IMDb Mini Biography By: firehouse44

Spouse (2)

Paula O'Hara (22 October 1993 - 18 November 2002) (his death)
Beverly Kelly (14 November 1959 - 12 April 1979) (divorced) (1 child)

Trade Mark (4)

Deeply calm, yet authoritative voice
Narrow eyes and wide mouth
Often played unscrupulous, mean characters
Lanky, lean frame

Trivia (45)

In 1979, Coburn started suffering from severe rheumatoid arthritis, which left him debilitated at times. In 1998, a holistic healer started him on a dietary supplement, which resulted in a drastic improvement in his condition.
Became a father for the 1st time at age 32 when his 1st wife Beverly Kelly gave birth to their son James H. Coburn IV on May 22, 1961.
Along with his The Magnificent Seven (1960) co-star, Steve McQueen, Coburn was a pallbearer at the funeral of his friend (and his martial arts instructor), Bruce Lee, on July 31, 1973 in Seattle, Washington.
Appears on the cover of Paul McCartney's 1973 album "Band on the Run".
He co-wrote two songs with Lynsey de Paul, "Melancholy Melon" and "Losin' the Blues for You" that appeared on her album "Tigers and Fireflies".
He had a relationship with Lynsey de Paul.
Step-daughter Lisa was web mistress for genesimmons.com, the official website of Gene Simmons from the rock group KISS.
At the time of his death, he was at home listening to music and playing his flute.
Appeared with Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson in two films, both of which were directed by John Sturges: The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Great Escape (1963).
College friend of his The Magnificent Seven (1960) co-star Robert Vaughn.
Was a big fan of Seven Samurai (1954). His favorite character in that film eventually became the character he ended up playing in The Magnificent Seven (1960).
Despite being one of the stars, he had only eleven lines in The Magnificent Seven (1960).
He once played the gong on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962).
For a time he did ads for "Schlitz" beer. Later after the contract was finished he admitted on a talk show that he never liked the taste of the beer.
Was the original choice for the role of Hannibal Smith in The A-Team (1983), a role which later went to George Peppard.
During the 1960s he was often compared with Lee Marvin.
Became good friends with Kris Kristofferson during the filming of Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973). They also worked together on Convoy (1978) and Payback (1999). Coburn contributed with backup vocals on Kristofferson's album "Who's to Bless and Who's to Blame".
Has appeared in two feature films with actor Mel Gibson. Maverick (1994) and Payback (1999).
Has a granddaughter named Jayn Coburn who is the daughter of his son James H. Coburn IV.
Gained an Associate of Arts from Compton Junior College in 1950, before being drafted into the Army. Then on his return from service in Germany, he studied acting at Los Angeles City College, (along with Robert Vaughn) and improvisation at Jeff Corey's Professional Actors Workshop. One of his colleagues there was James Dean. He did not study at UCLA.
He appeared in two films about William H. (Billy the Kid) Bonney. He played in Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973), as Pat Garrett. And he played John Simpson Chisum in Young Guns II (1990).
Sergio Leone attempted to cast him in Fistful of Dollars (1964) and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) in the parts that went to Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson, but both times he asked for too much money. Leone eventually cast him in Duck, You Sucker (1971).
Sam Peckinpah wanted to cast him in The Osterman Weekend (1983), but was overruled by the producers.
He was considered for Tony Curtis' role in Black Commando (1982).
He was originally cast Franco Nero's role in The Mercenary (1968), but dropped out due to disagreements as to whether he or Nero (who was cast in a different role) would be top-billed.
He was good friends with Bruce Lee. He was even one of the pallbearers at Lee's funeral, along with Steve McQueen, Bruce's brother, Robert Lee, Peter Chin, Danny Inosanto, and Taky Kimura.
He named Pat Garrett in Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973) as his favourite performance of his own.
He was considered for Captain Christopher Pike in Star Trek: The Cage (1986).
His interest in fast cars began with his father's garage business and continued throughout his life, as he exported rare cars to Japan. He was credited with having introduced Steve McQueen to Ferraris, and in the early 1960s owned a Ferrari 250 GT Lusso and a Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California SWB. His Spyder was the thirteenth of just fifty-six built. Coburn imported the pre-owned car in 1964, shortly after completing The Great Escape (1963). The car was restored and sold for $10,894,400 to English broadcaster Chris Evans, setting a new world record for the highest price ever paid for an automobile at auction. Cal Spyder #2377 was repainted several times during Coburn's ownership; it has been black, silver and possibly burgundy. He kept the car at his Beverly Hills-area home, where it was often serviced by Max Balchowsky, who also worked on the suspension and frame modifications on those Mustang GTs used in the filming of McQueen's Bullitt (1968). Coburn sold the Spyder in 1987 after twenty-four years of ownership. Over time he also owned the above-noted Lusso, a Ferrari Daytona, at least one Ferrari 308 and a 1967 Ferrari 412P sports racer.
He was originally going to star in Circle of Iron (1978) opposite Bruce Lee based on a script they co-wrote themselves. He dropped out following Lee's death. Coburn refused to watch the completed film.
He turned down O.J. Simpson's role in The Cassandra Crossing (1976).
He turned down Lee Van Cleef's role in La resa dei conti (1966).
He was considered for the role of Dr. Frank Poole in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
He auditioned for Zeus in Hercules (1997).
He was considered for Trapper John in MASH (1970).
In 1967 Coburn was voted the twelfth biggest star in Hollywood. In 1973 he was voted the 23rd most popular star in Hollywood.
Because of his severe rheumatoid arthritis, Coburn appeared in very few films during the 1980s, yet continued working until his death in 2002. This disease had left Coburn's body deformed and in pain. "You start to turn to stone," he told ABCNEWS in an April 1999 interview. "See, my hand is twisted now because tendons have shortened." For 20 years he tried a host of conventional and unconventional treatments, but nothing worked. "There was so much pain that ... every time I stood up, I would break into a sweat," he recalled. Then, at age 68, Coburn tried something called MSM, methylsulfonylmethane, a sulfur compound available at most health food stores. The result, he said, was nothing short of miraculous. "You take this stuff and it starts right away," said Coburn. "Everyone I've given it to has had a positive response." MSM did not cure Coburn's arthritis, but it did relieve his pain, allowing him to move more freely and resume his career.
He was initially cast in William Holden's role in Ashanti (1979), but dropped out.
Sam Peckinpah offered him the role of Bennie in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974). He turned down because he disliked the script, even questioning why Peckinpah would even make the film.
He was considered for Gregory Peck's roles in Cape Fear (1962) and The Omen (1976).
He was approached about playing Bryce in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) but ultimately the production simply couldn't afford such a name actor.
He was considered to star in The Straight Story (1999).
In Japan his masculine appearance was so appealing he became an icon for its leading cigarette brand. He also supported himself in later years by exporting rare automobiles to Japan.
He was deeply interested in Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, and collected sacred Buddhist artwork.
Never appeared in a film nominated for the the Best Picture Oscar.

Personal Quotes (17)

Actors are boring when they are not working. It's a natural condition, because they don't have anything to do. They just lay around, and that's why so many of them get drunk. They really get to be boring people. My wife will attest to that.
[on Sam Peckinpah] Sam is, I think, a great filmmaker. Of course, he's his own worst enemy. Sam is an unusual human being, and he needs to be treated like an unusual human being. He can create an atmosphere, whether he's drunk, sober, pissed off or in a rage, or whatever. I mean, for about three or four hours a day, he's a fucking genius. But the rest of the time he spends wallowing in a kind of emotional reaction to either good or bad memories.
[on Sam Peckinpah] He knew how to bring something out of an actor that even the actor didn't know was there. That's what an actor works for. What else is there? Saying lines, or being cute, or whatever. No. People think about that. People think that acting is an easy chore. "Why, I can do that". Like they have today. Tits and ass, and this studio who's always doing his trip. Shooting and killing and blowing things up. Nah. That's junk. It's terrible junk. Commercial shit is what it is. And everybody likes it because it's easy. Nobody has to think about anything. They just sit there and sensitize themselves or desensitize themselves to anything real. And it's, "Oh boy! Wasn't he great? See that gun he had?" They're made for thirteen-, fourteen-year-old boys.
[on Steve McQueen] Steve has to prove he had a worse childhood than anybody else. Only one other person I know can compete with him and that's Charles Bronson.
[on Hard Contract (1969)] I was really unhappy with that film, because the fellow that directed it was also the writer. Now, he's a brilliant writer, but he was a terrible director. And he did so many things that were wrong, just out of pure ego, that he drove us all up the wall.
I'm a jazz kind of actor, not rock'n'roll.
I came from dust bowl folk -- ordinary people who were stultified by the American Dream.
I meditate, I take good care of myself, sure. I don't get too involved in the details.
Sam [Sam Peckinpah] was a mad genius. He would shove you right over into the abyss and sometimes he would jump in right after you.
[on winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Affliction (1997)] I finally got one right, I guess.
[on Stella Adler] Stella taught us that without style, without personality, you're just a stick out there.
The Magnificent Seven (1960) was really kind of a miraculous event that took place in my life.
First job I went out on in New York I got, and when I came back, the first job I went out on, I got.
Taking in and blowing out smoke? And now you see girls smoking cigars. It got to be such a fad. Girls on the covers of magazines, smoking cigars. Give me a break. I didn't want to be a part of that. I don't like 'popular.'
It was the desire to do the complete thing. I only took taking acting lessons because my whole thing, really, was to direct. But my first jobs were acting jobs.
(His eulogy for Bruce Lee) Farewell, Brother. It has been an honor to share this space in time with you. As a friend and a teacher, you have given to me, have brought my physical, spiritual and psychological selves together. Thank you. May peace be with you
Studios have been trying to get rid of the actor for a long time and now they can do it. They got animation. NO more actor, although for now they still have to borrow a voice or two. Anyway, I find it abhorrent.

Salary (1)

Candy (1968) $50,000 plus points

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