At a panel discussion to promote “The Pee-Wee Herman Show on Broadway,” Paul Reubens talked readily on a number of topics -- including the new, gestating Pee Wee Herman movie -- and expounded on "Nailed," his role in the film, and gave effusive praise to the film's leads while revealing that O. Russell's viral-video-spawning-on-set-demeanor reared its head during filming.
"I got involved with David -- he called and asked to have a meeting and I met with him and he did whole scenes from 'Big Adventure' for me. He went, 'No, I'm serious. I'm a huge fan.' And he would do whole scenes of dialogue. And he offered me the part," Reubens said about how he first came on board the project.
"It was a small part, but it was really fun, great part. I got to play the husband of Catherine Keener. And in the movie, she's a former astronaut who becomes a senator. You don't know through almost the whole movie that I'm her husband, I'm her aide also. And she's totally abusive and horrible to me. And so you would never in a million years realize they're married," Reubens elaborated about his role in the zany comedy about a naïve and uninsured small town waitress (Jessica Biel) who suffers an accidental nail to the head at the hands of incompetent construction workers, heads to Washington and becomes a cause celebre for healthcare rights. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a rising star slimeball politician who boards her bandwagon cause when he falls in lust/love with her.
It's a high wire bit of material, with a hard tone to nail (pardon the pun), but to hear it from Reubens, the toplining actors hit the ball right out of the park. "I would go home every single night in awe of both leads in the movie, I just could not believe what they were doing. As an actor, what they're doing is very, very complicated and complex. It's really hard to pull off what they did. You have to be effortless, but it's really hard to do," Reubens said. "And I've never seen anybody be so successful with something that complicated [as Gyllenhaal was]. And Jessica Biel is literally -- I hate this word, but I can't think of another word to use -- is like a revelation. She's so incredibly good in the movie, and again, no one's ever seen her do anything like this... This is like an ingenue. It's almost like Dorothy in 'The Wizard Of Oz.'"
Reubens, like everyone else, wants the movie to come out but what he's been hearing does not bode well. "It's a great film. I think there's a great film waiting to come out there [but] I've heard from a lot of people recently, that what's been screened recently is a compilation, it's not really an edited version and David is taking his name off and has disassociated himself with the film. I heard a rumor last night that someone is actually trying to bury the film because he's become so successful now," Reubens revealed. And frankly, we're not too surprised. Our reader report revealed that tonally, the film -- admittedly in its very rough shape -- was a bit all over the place. Morever, we spoke to Russell in December and he said he had no pressing desire to revisit the movie saying, “There was a lot that was going on that I liked, but [the production] was kinda a stillbirth, you know? So when that happens, the whole thing gets kinda weird.”
While the shoot itself was marred by financing woes, the project also came on the heels of the infamous viral video of O. Russell losing his shit on the set of "I Heart Huckabees" and in particular, at actress Lily Tomlin. And Reubens says, he wasn't spared the director's wrath.
"When I got South Carolina where we shot the movie, I kept wondering, 'Who's seen that video of him screaming at everybody?' And when I got there I felt like every single person that was connected to the movie had seen that video already. And by the way, my first day on the movie, he was screaming at me at the top his lungs. I couldn't believe it. I was sitting there, and he was cursing and screaming on the first take," Reubens says adding quickly that the heat from the director didn't diminish his impression of him. "And I asked Lily Tomlin... after that movie, 'So, I've done a movie now with him. What do you think?' And she said, 'I'd work with him again.' I mean he's brilliant. He's a brilliant director, writer and he screamed at everybody and everybody would still love to work with him again so I don't know what that says about us."
As for why O. Russell lost his cool, Reubens isn't quite sure. "I don't think it was reality based [laughter]. I don't why he screamed at me. I did my first line in the first rehearsal and he started screaming like, 'What do I have to do to get the performance I want out of you!' And I was like, 'Not that.' [laughter]'
But regardless of the director's behavior or the perceived problems with the film, Reubens has great faith in the picture saying,"I hope that David will come on and edit that film, it's really really a great film that no one's ever gonna see. And if they do see it [without his involvement], they're seeing something that I've heard isn't very good."
We're not going to hold our breath on O. Russell coming back to finish the job but with Reubens' endless praise about the picture, we're more curious than ever. But given the shape the film was in at its recent test screening, don't expect it anytime soon. It still seems there is a lot of work to do on it to make it remotely watchable. --reporting by RP