Paul Reubens’ script has Pee-wee leaving prison, moving to Hollywood, and developing a “severe pill and alcohol addiction.”
The Safdie Brothers, Hollywood’s burgeoning masters of gut-churning tension and frenetic pacing, have cranked out some of the most anxiety-ridden movies of the past few years, from 2017’s disconcerting Good Time to 2019’s relentlessly stressful Uncut Gems, which turned family man Adam Sandler into a jewelry-slinging guy who gets muscled by angry bookies and locked naked in the truck of a car.
Who better, then, to take Pee-wee Herman—the comical protagonist with the red Schwinn bicycle from your strange but PG-rated childhood favorites Pee-wee’s Playhouse and Pee-wee’s Big Adventure—to dark new depths? Paul Reubens, the actor best known as Pee-wee, is gunning for a late-in-life comeback, as the Hollywood Reporter has revealed in an in-depth new feature. And if we’re lucky, the Safdies might just be at its helm.
As anyone familiar with Pee-wee likely remembers, Pee-wee’s fall from grace was prompted by Reubens’ 1991 arrest for indecent exposure after he was caught masturbating at an adult movie theater. Since Reubens, and therefore Pee-wee, is no longer the most appropriate face for a kids’ franchise anyway, Reubens has been shopping a screenplay about Pee-wee’s spiraling life. He’s approached the Safdies, who are reportedly “considering the project.”
Reubens refers to this departure as “the dark Pee-wee movie” and as the “Valley of the Dolls Pee-wee movie,” and boy, are those descriptions accurate. Per the Hollywood Reporter, the script involves Pee-wee leaving prison, becoming famous through yodeling, moving to Hollywood to act, and then—yes, you’re reading this correctly—developing a “severe pill and alcohol addiction that turns him into a monster.”
While Judd Apatow and Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos have both turned the project down, the Safdies might offer Reubens a little hope. That said, if a Safdies x Pee-wee collaboration does see the light of day, hope will surely be fleeting for sad, old Pee-wee. In an age of endless and unnecessary reboots, this is one we can actually get behind.