It’s only been a few years since Netflix staged a Pee-wee Herman revival of sorts with the John Lee-directed and Judd Apatow-produced Pee-wee’s Big Holiday movie, but Paul Reubens—Pee-wee himself—already has a very different concept in mind for his ideal Pee-wee comeback. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter as part of a lengthy profile, Reubens revealed that he’s been pitching movie studios on a script he calls The Pee-wee Herman Story that is apparently aggressively “dark and unexpected,” with Pee-wee getting “sent to a mental hospital for shock treatment for his alcoholism.” That’s Pee-wee the character, not Reubens playing a version of himself as Pee-wee in a break-the-fourth-wall way.
THR compares the idea to Valley Of The Dolls, and apparently Reubens has had some trouble convincing Hollywood that anyone would want to watch a dark-as-hell Pee-wee movie. The story says some “well-placed sources” claim he’s been fighting so hard for it that he’s willing to make it for $15 million (which is half of what Netflix spent on Big Holiday, apparently) and has already gotten rejections from Apatow and Netflix’s Ted Sarandos. One tentative “maybe,” though, came from Uncut Gems’ Safdie brothers, who have already proven they know their way around a dark story with a funny actor and reportedly are “considering the project.”
There’s a big catch to that budget, however, beyond its relative smallness. Reubens’ quote is a “firm $3 million,” and one of the sticking points he had with Apatow during Big Holiday was that he never wanted Pee-wee the character to look as old as Reubens does in real life (“There’s a creepy weirdness to it,” he explains). But with Marvel-style de-aging technology, Reubens thinks he could keep playing Pee-wee for “10 more years” if he wanted to, but THR says that sort of thing is currently “running around $1.5 million,” putting another dent in that $15 million budget. THR claims there’s a “deep-pocketed super-fan from the U.K.” who loves Pee-wee so much that he’s willing to put in $10 million of his own money to make the movie happen, but Reubens would still need to scrounge up the rest from what sounds like a vary wary Hollywood machine.
The full story, which you can find in the link up above, goes deeper on Reubens’ thoughts on the future of Pee-wee and (as you might expect) that indecent exposure arrest back in the ‘90s.