Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Safdies-produced Paul Reubens documentary to bring us one step closer to super-dark Pee-wee movie

Paul Reubens
Paul Reubens
Photo: Jamie McCarthy (Getty Images)

Last January (pre-quar!), we reported that Paul Reubens was excitedly shopping around a new Pee-wee Herman project that he billed as a “dark and unexpected” take on the character in which he is “sent to a mental hospital for shock treatment for his alcoholism.” He offered to make it for no money and got separate rejections from Judd Apatow and Netflix (among others, we assume), but he did apparently get one “maybe” from Josh and Benny Safdie—a.k.a. the Safdie brothers, a.k.a. the directing duo who had just released Uncut Gems. The shockingly dark Pee-wee project still hasn’t happened, and it seems unlikely that it will ever happen (given, you know, everything about it), but Pee-wee fans are getting a nice consolation prize at least.

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As announced today in a press release, HBO has picked up a two-part documentary about Reubens with a producing team that includes none other than Josh and Benny Safdie, unexpectedly bringing us marginally closer to the impossible day when the two of them actually… make a movie about Pee-wee getting electro-shocked (hoo boy). The documentary will be directed by Matt Wolf of Spaceship Earth, and the press release says it will offer a “kaleidoscopic portrait” of Reubens’ life. In a predictably silly statement, Reubens noted that he’s been working with HBO “since they were called Home Box Office,” adding, “I love HBO but I’m not going to marry them.”

In a statement that is less silly, Wolf said that everyone already knows Pee-wee Herman, but now it’s “time for the world to meet Paul Reubens.” Emma Tillinger Koskoff, one of the producers who is not a Safdie brother, added that Reubens is a “once in a generation talent” and teased that “audiences will be inspired and entertained” by his “creativity, resilience, and determination.” The press release doesn’t mention a potential airdate.