Paul Reubens Documentary Produced by the Safdie Brothers Headed to HBO
A two-part documentary about Paul Reubens, AKA Pee-wee Herman, is headed to HBO with producers Josh and Benny Safdie. The doc is described as a “kaleidoscopic portrait” of Reubens, who started his career as an improv comedian and stage actor before striking it big with a sold-out stage show called The Pee-wee Herman Show. Reubens translated the stage show first into two feature films and then a CBS Saturday-morning children’s TV show. The TV show ended in 1990, and a year later, Reubens was caught up in a scandal when he was arrested for indecent exposure in an adult movie theater.
HBO has announced that a two-part Paul Reubens documentary is on the way, directed by Matt Wolf and produced by the Safdie Brothers. Emma Tillinger Koskoff and Sebastian Bear-McClard are also producing. Here’s the official logline: “A kaleidoscopic portrait told in two parts, the Paul Reubens documentary traces the life of the imaginative artist behind one of pop culture’s most celebrated and unlikely icons: Pee-wee Herman.”
“I’ve been working with HBO since they were called Home Box Office! I’m honored and excited to continue my long history there. I love HBO, but I’m not going to marry them,” said Reubens. Director Matt Wolf added: “We all know Pee-wee Herman; it’s time for the world to meet Paul Reubens. I can’t wait to share his story.” And producer Emma Tillinger Koskoff said: “I’m thrilled to partner with HBO on Paul’s incredible life story. He is a once-in-a-generation talent whose brilliance created an indelible pop culture phenomenon. Audiences will be inspired and entertained by Paul’s creativity, resilience, and determination as they get to know the person behind the iconic character.”
Reubens began his career in the 1970s. In 1982 he began appearing in the stage show The Pee-wee Herman Show, which ran for five sold-out months. From there, Reubens will play Pee-wee Herman in two films – Tim Burton’s 1985 movie Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, which was a big hit, and the sequel, 1988’s Big Top Pee-wee, which was less successful. Reubens kept the character going with the children’s TV series Pee-wee’s Playhouse, which ran from 1986 to 1990. The show continued to air in reruns, but the reruns ended in 1991 after Reubens was arrested for indecent exposure in an adult movie theater.
The actor continued to work after the incident, although not as steadily. He appeared in films such as Batman Returns, Mystery Men, and Blow. He also revived The Pee-wee Herman Show on Broadway in 2010 and played Pee-wee on screen again with the 2016 Netflix movie Pee-wee’s Big Holiday.
This upcoming documentary isn’t the only time Reubens has been mentioned in connection with the Safdie Brothers. Last year, Reubens revealed he had been planning “dark Pee-wee Herman movie” that he wanted the Uncut Gems filmmakers to direct. Reubens apparently wrote a script that involved Pee-wee coming out of prison to “become an unlikely yodeling star.” From there, Pee-wee would move to Hollywood to become an actor, only to develop “a severe pill and alcohol addiction that turns him into a monster.” Sadly, the dark Pee-wee Herman film has yet to materialize, but maybe this documentary will serve as a test run.
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