Adventure Movies

Tim Burton Recalls ‘Surreal Experience’ of Filming Pee-wee’s Big Adventure

September 17, 20233 Mins Read

Legendary filmmaker Tim Burton has nothing but fond memories of working on his first feature film, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, along with its late star, Paul Reubens.

Sadly, Reubens, best known for his iconic Pee-wee Herman character, passed away in July at the age of 70. Burton was quick to pay tribute to the popular entertainer with an Instagram post, noting how incredibly supportive Reubens had with him on the production. While speaking with the British Film Institute in a new interview, Burton expanded upon his Pee-wee’s Big Adventure experience, stressing how he never would’ve gotten the job if not for the faith Reubens had in him.

Related: The Best Tim Burton Movies, Ranked by Style, Aesthetic and Art

“He had probably as equal or more say as the studio, in a way. That’s why I was always grateful,” Burton explained. “I’d only done two short films, and at that time, that was unheard of – to go from doing two short films that nobody saw to doing a feature film. So even I knew that this was very special and amazing. If he hadn’t been supportive, it wouldn’t have happened.”

“I love the character,” Burton went on to say about his appreciation for Pee-wee Herman, touching on why he was so excited to do the film at the time. “It was a surreal experience for me. All of a sudden, to be working with the crew and all these people with Paul, the surrounding comedians and characters. He was great, because it was the first time working with people that are from improv.”

Related: Tim Burton’s First Movie Is Still One of His Best

Burton remembered how, up to that point, he’d essentially just been sitting in a “dark room with animation drawings,” so it was a completely different world being on the set of something like Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. Despite the change in environment, however, Burton recalls that it was a pretty easy job for him directing the film, partly due to how much support he’d gotten from Reubens.

“I got to play in so many funny little genres that it felt quite easy,” Burton said. “He felt comfortable with me, and I was there to basically support that character. Luckily, I didn’t know anything [about the difficulties of making films], so I wasn’t scared of anything.”

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure Is a Cult Classic

Released in 1985, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure was the first of three movies to star Reubens as the titular character. The movie, which follows Pee-wee Herman on a quest to find his stolen bicycle, was written by Reubens, Phil Hartman, and Michael Varhol. It also starred E.G. Daily, Mark Holton, Diane Salinger, and Judd Omen.

Source: British Film Institute

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