Associated Press
Paul Newman

Paul Newman, the legendary actor and philanthropist, is battling cancer, his longtime neighbor and business partner said Wednesday.

Newman, 83, has recently appeared gaunt in photos, and he dropped plans to direct a play in his Connecticut hometown. Writer A.E. Hotchner, who partnered with Newman to start Newman's Own salad dressing company in the 1980s, said the actor told him about the disease about 18 months ago. He did not specify what kind of cancer, but he said Newman is in active treatment.

"I know that it's a form of cancer," Hotchner told The Associated Press. "It's a form of cancer, and he's dealing with it."

Newman issued a statement late Tuesday that he's "doing nicely" but didn't specifically address questions about cancer.

The Oscar winner appeared to have lost weight when he was photographed during practice for the Indianapolis 500 auto race last month. Martha Stewart, in an entry dated June 6, posted a photo on her blog of herself with the actor, who looked thin, at a luncheon to benefit the Hole in the Wall Gang camps for critically ill children.