Before there was Beetle Juice, Batman or Edward Scissor Hands, there was Pee-wee Herman. Yes, the original guy you didn’t want to get mixed up with. The loner. The rebel. In 1985, Pee-wee's Big Adventure premiered at Grauman's Chinese Theatre and marked the breakthrough collaboration for director Tim Burton and composer Danny Elfman. It also cemented Paul Reubens' status as the eternal man-child of a million catch phrases.
This last weekend in Hollywood, Pee-wee's Big Adventure returned to the big screen, this time against a mausoleum wall in a graveyard. For the last four years, hordes of Angelenos have ritualistically descended upon the Hollywood Forever Cemetery to watch Pee-wee's Big Adventure as part of Cinespia – the ultimate L.A. summer screening series founded by John Wyatt.
“I have a formula for these screenings,” Wyatt told the L.A. Weekly about his choice to include Big Adventure in Cinespia’s annual programming. “You’re with your friends, you’re having drinks, it’s not a stuffy atmosphere but I show a lot of classics. Really, It's a specific type of mood. I was watching TV about five years ago and I hadn’t seen Pee-wee's Big Adventure since I was a child. It came on TV and it was fitting the formula and I realized that this is, in fact, a perfect film. It’s totally entertaining. It’s relatively intellectually deep. It’s so much fun and inventive and unlike anything else. I thought, ‘I’m just going to play it for my audience and see what happens,’ and people loved it. I think Pee-wee's Big Adventure has actually entered the canon of classics because it has all the mechanics of any great, super entertaining film. There's nothing quite like it.”
And Wyatt is right. Saturday evening underneath a nearly full moon, hundreds of Pee-wee fans from across Los Angeles gathered over picnic baskets and bottles of wine on the cemetery lawn, ready to shout their favorite lines over the screen dialog and hoping that Reubens might make an appearance, which he did, introducing the film to a standing ovation.
L.A. Weekly caught up with a shy and genuinely flattered Paul Reubens prior to the screening to chat about the Pee-wee legacy and plans for his next Herman adventure. “It's pretty amazing,” Reubens said. “It's incredible… It's interesting for me this year because I feel really, really, really close to making my next Pee-wee opus. The people that are involved from a production standpoint and from an artistic standpoint, it just seems like the exact right time. It was written many, many, many years ago… It is another big adventure.”
To see photographs from Cinespia's Big Adventure screening, check out the slideshow here.
The last Cinespia screening of the summer, Ridley Scott’s Alien, takes place Saturday September 20. For more information go to www.cinespia.org.