Josh and Benny Safdie are not involved in a Pee-wee Herman movie, despite the buzz created by a new Hollywood Reporter profile on Pee-wee creator and actor Paul Reubens. The THR profile claims the Safdie brothers are “considering” a pitch from Reubens to direct a Pee-wee movie with a dark and edgier bent to it. A source close to the situation tells IndieWire there were preliminary conversations between the Safdies and Reubens’ manager several months ago about the project but they never progressed beyond that.
Reubens pitched the Safdie brothers on a script titled “The Pee-wee Herman Story,” which the creator has unsuccessfully been trying to get made over the last couple decades. The storyline picks up with Pee-wee after he is released from prison and attempts to start a new career as a yodeling star. The character ends up moving to Hollywood where he develops a crippling pill and alcohol addiction that derails his career and sends him to a mental hospital where he undergoes shock treatment.
The “Pee-wee Herman Story” narrative sounds less like a traditional Pee-wee movie and more like a vision from the Safdie brothers, so it’s no wonder Reubens attempted to court Josh and Benny to direct. The film never moved passed the conversation stage between the two parties and has also been passed over by Judd Apatow (producer of “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday”) and Ted Sarandos (Netflix released “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday”).
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Per THR, Reubens wrote the the first draft of “The Pee-wee Herman” story in the late 1990s. “I’ve referred to it as the ‘Valley of the Dolls’ Pee-wee movie,” Reubens said. “It’s about fame.” Reubens has been pitching the dark Pee-wee movie to studios with a budget of $15 million, about half of what “Big Holiday” was made for but still a bit too pricy for many to take a chance on given the dark subject matter. Sources close to Netflix told THR that Sarandos passed on the film because “it doesn’t check off all the boxes” of a Pee-wee movie.
The Safdie brothers are currently in theaters with the Adam Sandler-starring “Uncut Gems,” which has grossed $47 million and counting at the domestic box office since opening in December. The Safdies won Best Director honors at the New York Film Critics Circle awards and picked up the Best Screenplay prize from the National Board of Review. The duo have not announced their next directorial project.
Additional reporting by Eric Kohn