The 83-year-old actor, a former chain-smoker, is said to be under the care of a leading oncologist. A family member said: "It's so awful. He's dying." A source closed to the actor's family said: "We have known he is seriously ill for several weeks but his loved ones are being very protective and saying very little."
Rumours that the actor was ill sparked when he started cancelling engagements. In the past six weeks, the veteran of more than 50 films has dropped plans to direct Steinbeck"s Of Mice And Men on stage at the Westport Country Playhouse near his home in Connecticut.
He also scrubbed an appearance at a fund-raising event for the Hole In The Wall Gang Camp, a charity he co-founded in 1988 to provide outdoor fun for children with life-threatening illnesses, and cancelled a 'star guest' appearance on the CBS network's flagship TV chat programme 'The Late Show With David Letterman.'