Paul Reubens wants to bring his iconic man-child character back to the big screen, but it won’t be the Pee-wee Herman you remember from the Playhouse.
Reubens’s career in kid entertainment abruptly ended in 1991 when he was arrested for indecent exposure at a Sarasota porn theater. Since then, he’s shown up in everything from the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer to 30 Rock and most recently in The Connors, but with the 35th anniversary of his blockbuster Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and a 25-city tour to celebrate it rolling across the country, the 67-year-old actor thinks the world is ready for a more adult Pee-wee.
Sources tell the Hollywood Reporter that Reubens has been aggressively try to sell his screenplay for The Pee-wee Herman Story, which Reubens describes as the Valley of the Dolls Pee-wee movie.”
The script envisions Pee-Wee getting out of prison for an unknown crime, and becoming a renowned yodeler before moving to Hollywood, where he develops a dangerous taste for pills and booze.
“It’s about fame,” Reubens says.
Reubens—who’s lived in the same Hollywood house for 35 years and has an affinity for the Walgreens at Sunset and Vine—has been revising the script since the late ’90s, but his newly renewed push to sell it has gotten little love so far.
Sources say that despite Reubens’s promise that he could do the picture for $15 million, Judd Apatow, who directed 2016’s Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday for Netflix, isn’t interested, nor is Netflix—which dished out $30 million for Big Holiday.
Uncut Gems directors, the Safdie brothers, are reportedly considering the project, but with Reubens demanding a $3 million paycheck and de-aging tech to remove the marks of time from his face, the finance departments at UTA, Endeavor, and CAA have all expressed the belief that the project is a stinker.
Yet Pee-wee’s fans are legion and should never be underestimated. One devotee from the U.K.—who showed up at meeting dressed as Pee-wee—has reportedly pledged to put up $10 million for the film, though Reubens won’t confirm that.
Reubens remains optimistic, saying, “I do feel like it’s going to probably happen. I have a couple of people that are interested. But this is Hollywood. A couple people interested and five bucks will get you five bucks.”
A dark version of Pee-wee Herman is not unknown to his fans. In 1980’s Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie, Reubens plays a character named in the credits as “Pee-wee Herman,” and there’s nothing G-rated about it. The original Pee-wee Herman Show—a stage production that ran at Groundlings Theatre and then at the Roxy, where it was filmed as an HBO special in 1981—was also more adult oriented than his subsequent TV work.
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