Reubens discussed “the dark Pee-wee movie” in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter. The Pee-wee Herman Story would open with the titular character getting out of jail and embarking on a yodeling career. He then becomes a big name on the yodeling circuit, and soon after, a movie star. At this point, he develops crippling addictions to drugs and alcohol, behaves like a monster, loses all of his friends (even the talking couch?) and winds up in a mental institution receiving electroshock therapy.
“I’ve referred to it as the Valley of the Dolls Pee-wee movie,” Reubens explained, citing the 1960s book and film in which “dolls” are a name for prescription pills. “It’s about fame.” He did not say whether Herman finds redemption at the end, or whether he’ll befriend any of the mental hospital’s furniture.
Reubens wrote the first draft of The Pee-wee Herman Story in the late ’90s, and has pitched it to everybody from Judd Apatow — with whom he worked on the 2016 Netflix revival Pee-wee’s Big Holiday — to the Safdie brothers. So far, nobody has said yes.
“I have a couple of people that are interested,” according to Reubens. “But this is Hollywood. A couple people interested and five bucks will get you five bucks.”
Producers seem skeptical that there’s an audience for this darker take. The generation of kids that watched Paul Reubens play Pee-wee Herman is now all grown up, with adult nostalgia and adult purchasing power. That will always have value to the studios. This same generation was also raised on
porn the Internet, and seems to be much more forgiving about the 1991 incident at an adult theater that effectively ended Reubens’ career for a time. Surely some of that audience would follow Reubens to this darker place, but would enough of them do so to offset the production cost?
Reubens has already shopped the flick for a $30 million all-in price tag and received enough rejections to now look for $15 million instead. But his own salary ask is reportedly $3 million, and he insists on using face de-aging technology because otherwise, the 67 year-old actor says he looks “creepy” playing Pee-wee Herman. That technology costs about $1.5 million just by itself. Between his fee and his face, Reubens’ proposed $15 million budget starts to sound extremely tight.
Reubens can start proving his audience still exists next month when he takes to the road on the “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure 35th Anniversary Tour”. Reubens will be screening his first feature film, providing trivia, and answering audience questions. Get tickets here.
Interestingly, Reubens only found financing for 1985’s Big Adventure after embarking on a different live tour, “The Pee-wee Herman Party”. That tour did very well, and sold out shows in New York and Los Angeles. If the new “Big Adventure 35th Anniversary Tour” is a bit hit, then Reubens just might find the financing he needs.