Paul Reubens is dusting off his red bow-tie once more for a film revival of his iconic character Pee-wee Herman. The comedian confirmed the Judd Apatow-produced film was moving forward during an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on Wednesday, but wasn’t able to divulge too many details just yet. “There is going to be one,” Reubens said. “And I was hoping I could make this huge announcement tonight, but it’s a week away, I think, from being announced.”
Reubens, however, did say that production on the film would begin next February and that a director had been hired as well, though he wouldn’t say who. “Steven Spielberg?” Fallon cracked. “Steven Spielberg!” Reubens gamely responded, before shaking his head no and adding: “It’s called P.T.”
As Reubens noted, news of a new Pee-wee Herman movie, and of Apatow’s involvement, has been bouncing around for the better part of three years now. The script was written by Reubens and comedian Paul Rust — whose writing credits also include Arrested Development and Comedy Bang! Bang! — though what kind of adventure the titular hero will embark on remains unknown.
The Pee-wee persona originally developed in the 1970s, evolving from Reubens’ early improv work with Los Angeles troupe the Groundlings. After missing the final cut for the 1980 cast of Saturday Night Live, Reubens adapted the eccentric character for the stage with The Pee-wee Herman Show, which gained national exposure after being filmed and released by HBO as a 1981 special.
Of course, Pee-wee became a major star once he hit the big screen with 1985’s Tim Burton-directed Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. The success of that bizarre comedy helped Reubens launch a TV series, the eventual cult-classic Pee-wee’s Playhouse, in 1986. A film sequel, Big Top Pee-wee, was released in 1988, though was a critical disaster and relative commercial flop. As a sign of his character’s Eighties legacy, Pee-wee (not Reubens) was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 1991, Reubens was arrested for masturbating in an adult theater in Sarasota, Flordia. With Pee-wee then the punchline of dirty schoolyard jokes, Reubens retired the character for most of the decade. In 2007, the actor appeared in character at Spike TV’s Guy’s Choice Awards, marking Pee-wee’s first public appearance since 1992; then in 2011, Reubens appeared as Pee-wee in a Saturday Night Live segment opposite cast member Andy Samberg.