The 13-episode “American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story” will draw on 17,000-plus hours of archival footage and Hefner’s collection of more than 2,600 scrapbooks. Producers promise “never-before-told” stories via first-person interviews with Hefner about his personal life, social-justice crusades and lifestyle brand built around the famous mag featuring pictorials of nude women.
“American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story” is being produced for Amazon by Stephen David Entertainment and Playboy Enterprises’ Alta Loma Entertainment division. The docu-series will premiere sometime in 2017 exclusively on Amazon Prime Video in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Austria and Japan.
Popular on Variety
The series starts with Hefner’s life in post-World War II America, through the launch of Playboy magazine in 1953 and the subsequent six decades. Hefner has been married three times and has engaged in numerous liaisons over the years with Playboy models. “American Playboy” will mark the first time Hefner has opened his private scrapbook archives, housed at the Playboy Mansion, to any filmmaker.
“It has been a long road in finding the right partners to tell the full story of Playboy as it has unfolded over these past 63 years, and I believe we have found them in the collaborative team of Stephen David Entertainment and Amazon,” Hefner, who turned 90 in April, said in a statement.
For Amazon, the docu-series adds another title to its nascent nonfiction lineup, as it has focused more on scripted dramas and comedies and films. Its unscripted show pickups include “The Fashion Fund” and “The New Yorker Presents,” both from Condé Nast Entertainment.
“Although Hugh Hefner is an iconic figure known worldwide, most people may not be aware of the impact he has had on some of this country’s most important social revolutions,” said Conrad Riggs, head of unscripted programming at Amazon Studios. “We are excited to bring Prime members the untold story of Mr. Hefner’s remarkable life and his contributions to modern American history.”
“American Playboy” will cover not only Hef’s rabbit-head empire but also his fights to defend the First Amendment, abortion rights and same-sex marriage. Through his Playboy Foundation, Hefner sponsored the lower-court cases that eventually led to Roe v. Wade and filed an amicus curiae brief in that landmark U.S. Supreme Court case. For years he was a target of the conservative movement, with Playboy the subject of ongoing surveillance by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, and he has been an outspoken defender of civil rights.
Hefner is officially Playboy Enterprises’ chief creative officer and is listed as the magazine’s editor-in-chief. Playboy’s websites and print publication, however, no longer include nude images, an acknowledgement that it can’t compete with the immense amount of online porn.
“American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story” is executive produced by Stephen David (“The Men Who Built America,” “The World Wars”), Peter Jaysen (“You Me Her”) and Dick Rosenzweig (“The House Bunny,” “The Playboy Club”) with co-executive producers Shirley Escott (“Shadow of Doubt,” “The Making of the Mob: New York”) and Tim Kelly (“NASCAR: The Rise of American Speed,” “American Genius”).
Previous biopic projects about the Playboy founder include Kevin Burns’ “Hugh Hefner: American Playboy” for A&E’s Biography in 1996, and Brigitte Berman’s 2009 documentary film “Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel.”
Pictured above: Hugh Hefner with Playboy models in 1966