Beyond the playhouse
THE BEST OF REUBENS’ PEE-WEE-FREE APPEARANCES
Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1992) AS: Amilyn
After being abducted by vampiric henchman Amilyn, Buffy later drives a stake through his heart, with Reubens going to town on an incredibly protracted death scene. His first role after his 1991 arrest, rather than shy away from what had happened, he insisted on looking as much like his mugshot as possible.
Batman Returns (1992) /Gotham (2016) AS: Tucker Cobblepot
Seven years after working together on Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Tim Burton cast Reubens as The Penguin's dad, who tosses his deformed baby into Gotham’s river at the beginning of the film. He was recently cast in the role again, for fleshed-out prequel duties on TV’S Gotham. “It’s been really fun and really thrilling,” says Reubens. “It’s extremely bloody and violent.”
Mystery Men (1999)
AS: The Spleen
Director Kinka Usher was desperate to cast Reubens in the superhero comedy: “I was the kicking and screaming baby saying, ‘I have to have him, I have to have him,’” he later said. Reubens repaid him by coming up, well, trumps, as the man who can make people faint with his abominable flatulence.
Blow (2001) AS: Derek Foreal
Loosely based on a real person, Derek is the hairdresser/drug dealer who kickstarts George Jung’s (Johnny Depp) illicit career with an obscene amount of marijuana. Director Ted Demme cast Reubens after watching Pee-wee’s Playhouse with his daughter, challenging him to come up with a character even “a quarter as memorable as Pee-wee.” Relishing a more heavyweight role, Reubens duly camped it up.
Life During Wartime (2009)
In Todd Solondz’s re-cast sequel to Happiness, Reubens is Andy, the schlub formerly played by Jon Lovitz, who, having taken his own life, now revisits his exlove Joy in ghostly visions. It’s a sombre performance, and Solondz cast Reubens not only to showcase his emotional versatility, but knowing that Reubens’ troubled history would give the role extra pathos.