Encino Man star Pauly Shore recently announced he would star as fitness guru and now recluse Richard Simmons in a biopic of Simmons. This comes after the internet noticed that Shore kinda sorta looks like Richard Simmons, and started doing memes about it.
Back in September, Shore posted on Instagram that he was “playing phone tag” with Simmons, trying to “make” a biopic happen. Yesterday, a Richard Simmons biopic was officially announced with production company the Wolper Organization and Shore set to star. In a statement about the biopic, Shore said, “I’m really excited about sharing Richard Simmons’ life with the world. We all need this biopic now more than ever.”
Just hours later, though, Simmons posted this on his Facebook page:
So, IF this biopic happens, it’s unsanctioned. That’s not the worst thing—people and/or their estates being involved in their biopics often results in compromised work (see also: Rocketman, Bohemian Rhapsody, Maestro), but in this case, given that Richard Simmons chose to withdraw from public life and has previously been unhappy with attention refocused on him, it’s probably best not to make a biopic he explicitly isn’t endorsing.
In 2017, the Missing Richard Simmons podcast drew attention to Simmons’ withdrawal from public life and his job as a fitness instructor. The podcast, hosted by former The Daily Show producer Dan Taberski, was a massive hit and prompted the LAPD to do a wellness check on Simmons (who was found to be “fine”). There was speculation that Simmons, one of the earliest stars in the wellness industry, had gained a lot of weight, thus discrediting him as a fitness and diet expert; that he was transitioning his gender; that he was in some kind of elder abuse situation. The last is a valid concern, but there has never been any credible evidence of this (unlike, say, Brooke Astor, for which there was a mountain of circumstantial evidence that she was in an unhealthy situation).
Simmons was unhappy with the podcast and the scrutiny it put him under, however well-meaning Taberski was in exploring Simmons’ effective retirement, and now Shore wants to make a movie about Simmons, despite Simmons choosing privacy in his retirement. There might be a moment to make a film about Richard Simmons, maybe now isn’t that moment. But I have a theory about this, and it’s not just that Shore got excited to be a meme—I think this is about Simon Rex.
In the early 90s, propelled by his mother, comedy doyenne Mitzi Shore (you know who needs a biopic? Mitzi Shore! And it should star Jenny Slate! Make THAT happen, internet!), Pauly became famous with films like Encino Man, Son in Law, Bio-Dome, and voicing Bobby in A Goofy Movie (honestly, “leaning tower of cheeza” is iconic). But beyond his Valley boy schtick, he didn’t have much to offer, so while the likes of Sean Astin, Carla Gugino, and Brendan Fraser went onto bigger and better things, Shore just kind of petered out.
Meanwhile, Simon Rex rose up the ranks in the 90s, going from sex work to male modeling to MTV and, finally, getting substantial roles in film and television. Rex crashed and burned in the 2000s, but then came back with a widely lauded performance in Sean Baker’s Red Rocket in 2021, and now he’s a movie star again, with four upcoming films, including Zoe Kravitz’s directorial debut, Pussy Island.
Based on absolutely nothing except multiple interactions with Pauly Shore over the years—always unpleasant! Never fun! Try to leave the room if possible every time!—I have a conspiracy theory that Simon Rex’s career renaissance has Pauly chasing a comeback of his own, and Richard Simmons is his golden ticket. Except Richard Simmons would like to be excused from this narrative. It would be one thing if Simmons was into the idea of a biopic, but he really seems to not want to be famous anymore. Barring any reason to be concerned, best to just let him get on with that.
Shore is premiering a short film in which he plays Richard Simmons called The Court Jester during the Sundance Film Festival. The short is not part of the fest, they’re just screening it in Park City during the festival. For a person trying to break into the industry, with no connections, this would be a ballsy move. For a guy with connections, like Pauly Shore, it’s…less ballsy, more sad. You can see the teaser for The Court Jester here, or you can watch this video of a garbage truck on fire.