Paul Reubens on how Sly Stallone inadvertently got Tim Burton to direct 'Pee-wee's Big Adventure'

On a solo New York Comic Con panel this past Friday, Paul Reubens shared wonderful stories from his prolific career, prompted by questions from fans in the audience. One fan asked if Paul had any favorite moments working with Tim Burton, and that got him talking about how Pee-wee's Big Adventure became Burton's directorial debut (starts at 8:57). It's a long story, as he admits, but ultimately a real Hollywood fairytale. Shelley Duvall plays a part in the story, as does Maryedith Burrell. Sly Stallone plays a part too but may just now be finding out his influential role. As Paul tells it, back in the day, he offered Warner Bros. "150 to 200" names of working directors to choose from, they declined all but one. He was disappointed in their choice and stalled in the hopes of getting a better one.

"I had just worked like 10 years to get to the point where I'm sitting in Warner Bros. office with the presidents… and I have the opportunity to make a movie, and that's like the wrong director. That's not the right director. And I was completely inspired… and I don't think he knows to this day that he was such a strong inspiration… I was, at the time, completely inspired by Sylvester Stallone because, I'm not kidding, you probably… know this story, maybe some of you don't… Sylvester Stallone, when he made Rocky, very famously said 'no' to every single opportunity… that didn't include him starring in it. Every major action star… wanted to play Rocky. That script was never in question, everyone wanted to make that movie but no one wanted to make it with an unknown person named Sylvester Stallone. Nobody."

So, Paul, like Stallone, stuck to his guns and said "Sorry, no, it's not the right guy." After the meeting with Warner Bros. execs was over, his two managers, and the film's co-producers, sat him down and said, "Are you out of your mind?!"

The studio gave him one week to find a director who was the three impossible A's: approvable, affordable and available. That evening, at a Groundlings' party, Paul asked everyone if they knew any movie directors. Maryedith Burrell said, "Oh my god. Oh, Paul, I know exactly who it is. His name is Tim Burton." Shelley Duvall, who had just been in Tim's short Frankenweenie, enthusiastically confirmed that suggestion. The rest, as they say, is history.

If you're a fan of Paul's (and, come on, who isn't?), watch the entire panel. All his stories are terrific and (of course) funny, and give real insight into the man behind Pee-wee Herman. It's about an hour long.

video/screenshot via NerdNewsToday