Is the world ready for a dark Pee-wee Herman reboot? Paul Reubens really hopes so. The actor-comedian’s beloved bowtie-wearing character was an ’80s pop culture mainstay, with multiple TV series and films—but Reubens’ 1991 arrest for masturbating at a porn theater in Sarasota, Florida cut that craze short. But these are different times: Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday premiered in 2016, Reubens is set to go on tour in a few days to celebrate Pee-wee’s Big Adventure’s 35th anniversary, and he has a script that just might become the 2020s’ first cult classic: A dark, Valley of the Dolls-like Pee-wee Herman movie.
“When people go, like, ‘Was your career over in ’90, ’91?’—I never viewed it like that,” Reubens told The Hollywood Reporter. “I make the rules of when I’m coming back, and when I’m not coming back, and what I do next.”
And Reubens has plenty on the horizon, THR notes. In addition to the tour, Reubens is also apparently working on a radio project and trying to launch an animated series inspired by Puppetland from his CBS show Pee-wee’s Playhouse. And then there’s that old script he’s been finessing since the late ’90s: The Pee-wee Herman Story.
Reubens described the project to THR as “the dark Pee-wee movie.” In the film, as described by THR, the boyish character would escape prison and find unexpected fame as a yodeler before moving to Hollywood to transition to movies—at which point he would become addicted to alcohol and pills, and eventually need shock treatment at a mental hospital. “I’ve referred to it as the Valley of the Dolls Pee-wee movie," Reubens told THR. “It’s about fame.”
So far, none of the major studios Reubens has reportedly approached seem to have bitten—but he’s encouraged by the advances in de-aging technology, which would allow him to keep the character alive for even longer, providing someone’s willing to fork over the budget. And although he’s heard “no” a couple times already, Reubens is undeterred; he even hit up the Uncut Gems maestros, the Safdie brothers, who THR reports are “considering the project.” According to THR, one exceedingly wealthy Pee-wee fan has apparently already vowed to front $10 million of the film’s $15 million budget.
“I do feel like it's going to probably happen,” Reubens told THR. “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.”