In news I didn’t see coming, the Safdie brothers have signed on to produce a two-part documentary about the life of Paul Reubens for HBO, the network announced Thursday.
Reubens is, of course, best known for creating the character of Pee-wee Herman, an iconic role that brought him fame and fortune. The film is described as a “kaleidoscopic portrait” that “traces the life of the imaginative artist behind one of pop culture’s most celebrated and unlikely icons.”
Naturally, there is no reference to Reubens’ 1991 arrest for indecent exposure or the 2002 charges brought against him for possession of child pornography, though it’s safe to assume that HBO will “go there,” as it’d be completely irresponsible to ignore those incidents.
Matt Wolf (Spaceship Earth) is directing the Reubens documentary, which is a co-production between HBO Documentary Films and Elara. Emma Tillinger Koskoff (The Irishman) will produce with Josh and Benny Safdie as well as their Elara partner Sebastian Bear-McClard (Uncut Gems). Reubens reportedly reached out to the Safdies about directing a “dark” Pee-wee Herman movie last year, but it looks like this is the direction they’re going instead.
“I’ve been working with HBO since they were called Home Box Office! I’m honored and excited to continue my long history there. I love HBO, but I’m not going to marry them,” Reubens said in a cheeky statement.
“We all know Pee-wee Herman; it’s time for the world to meet Paul Reubens. I can’t wait to share his story,” said Wolf.
“I’m thrilled to partner with HBO on Paul’s incredible life story. He is a once in a generation talent whose brilliance created an indelible pop culture phenomenon. Audiences will be inspired and entertained by Paul’s creativity, resilience, and determination as they get to know the person behind the iconic character,” added Koskoff.
Reubens has racked up several notable movie appearances outside of his Pee-wee franchise, including Blow, Mystery Men and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, not to mention numerous voice roles. He’s an artist who seems to be embraced by the public despite his legal problems, though he remains a divisive figure to many, and I hope this two-part documentary explores that interesting dichotomy. The Safdies certainly aren’t afraid to explore the dark parts of humanity in their work, which also reminds us that people aren’t simply “good” or “bad,” they’re just human.