The Richard Simmons Biopic Feud Timeline Explained

After Richard Simmons emerged as a fitness guru back in the early 1980s, he soon became an American icon. Having first opened successful fitness centers, he later focused on the world of workout and aerobics videos such as "Sweating to the Oldies," which were huge sellers. As a result of his infectious personality and his fitness backstory, Simmons became a familiar face on TV with his hit "The Richard Simmons Show" and even appeared in movies.

Simmons' career in fitness lasted more than 40 years. Though he has rarely been seen in public for the last 10, he remains a beloved figure among American TV audiences and those who have improved their fitness through his routines. Little wonder then that recent reports saying Pauly Shore — who bears an uncanny resemblance to the former fitness guru — was set to play Simmons in an upcoming biopic generated a great deal of excitement among fans.

However, the proposed biopic seemed to be news to Simmons, who posted a rare public statement distancing himself from the film. Here's what we know so far.

Simmons left the public eye

Despite making a fortune through his fitness videos and TV appearances, Richard Simmons continued to teach at his studios decades into his career. However, in 2014 he abruptly disappeared from classes and failed to make any more public appearances or give interviews. Rumors swirled as people wondered why such a beloved and successful figure would suddenly disappear from public view.

Outlets such as TMZ began to cover his disappearance, with some claiming that Simmons was experiencing health issues that prevented him from continuing his career. In a documentary from the outlet that aired on FOX, one doctor stated that Simmons had experienced a debilitating knee injury. Other rumors claimed that he was due to undergo sex reassignment surgery and that he had been left inconsolable after the death of his dog. In 2017, speculation about what had happened to Simmons and why he had decided to retreat from the spotlight reached fever pitch. A podcast — "Missing Richard Simmons," which investigated his disappearance — topped the podcast charts, though it failed to bring the fitness star back into public view. However, he remains a popular and much-loved figure, with more than 400,000 followers on Facebook despite having been absent from public life for almost a decade.

A striking resemblance

The influence of Richard Simmons and his continued relevance to his fans came to the fore in 2020. With much of the world in lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, isolated internet users sought out online fitness videos to keep themselves active at home. One of these came from Pauly Shore, who uploaded a short, humorous exercise routine for his followers called "Sweatin' with the Wiez." The video was a hit, and in the months that followed Shore turned it into a regular series.

The short clips typically saw Shore accompanied by a workout instructor playfully attempting brief bursts of aerobics, usually in a pair of retro short shorts. As some viewers noted, the resemblance to the iconic Richard Simmons was uncanny, so much so that Shore was later approached to play the fitness guru in a short film, as he recounted in an Instagram post.

Simmons disassociated himself from the project

Pauly Shore claimed that he had been in discussions with the reclusive ex-fitness guru Richard Simmons about working together on a project, whom he said he had been playing "phone tag" with for many months, per Facebook. Shore finally portrayed Simmons in "The Court Jester," a short film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2024. He explained on Instagram that the work would be used to shop for a movie deal and drum up interest in a full-length Simmons biopic.

Richard Simmons had made vanishingly few public statements during his years away from public life. Indeed, most of the headlines he has generated in recent years have related to litigation he has enacted against news outlets attempting to pin down the reason for his disappearance. However, in response to the news that Shore was set to play Simmons on screen, the reclusive former fitness guru took to his own Facebook page in January 2024, writing: "Hi Everybody! You may have heard they may be doing a movie about me with Pauly Shore. I have never given my permission for this movie. So don't believe everything you read. I no longer have a manager, and I no longer have a publicist. I just try to live a quiet life and be peaceful. Thank you for all your love and support. Richard[.]"

Shore claimed he received Simmons' blessing

Fans of Richard Simmons were understandably defensive of their hero's right to privacy, with many online commentators wishing him well and providing messages of support concerning his reluctance to return to the public eye. But at the same time, there was a sense of disappointment among his and Pauly Shore's fanbase that the biopic hadn't received his blessing. Especially as in a mid-January 2024 Instagram post Shore had suggested that he had been in contact with Simmons and given the impression that they were working on the film together. Shore had previously encouraged his fans to contact the big streaming companies to seed interest in the project (per Facebook). 

Days after Richard Simmons came out of hiding to inform his fans that he had no connection to the upcoming biopic about his life, Pauly Shore's short film about Simmons, "The Court Jester," received its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Though the event began under a cloud due to the furor that had built up after Simmons' post, Shore reportedly received a wave of applause from the audience when he announced that Simmons had texted him a good luck message earlier in the day. TMZ — which gained footage of the speech — interpreted it as an about-face from the fitness guru that proved he supported the film.

Further messages from Richard

In another clip published by TMZ prior to the January 2024 premiere of "The Court Jester," Pauly Shore highlighted his determination to eventually get the elusive Richard Simmons to support the biopic and view it in the spirit in which it was intended. After its release, Shore spoke to a photographer at the Hollywood Burbank Airport and pleaded with Simmons to watch it with an open mind. "Watch the short ... watch it with open heart, don't watch it coming into it going you know 'I don't wanna do this,'" he said, asking the fitness guru for his honest criticism and feedback (via TMZ). The text message that Simmons apparently sent to Shore seemed to indicate that he had been convinced. However, thus far he has made no more statements regarding Shore or "The Court Jester."

Instead, in late January 2024 Simmons remained active on social media to an extent unseen since his 2014 retirement, with a Facebook post reiterating that his original message about the film was indeed authentic. He followed this up with another post wishing his followers "happy and peaceful" lives and encouraging them to "know your worth." In another message directed at his fans in the wake of the media storm that he had found himself engulfed in, he wrote: "I wanted you all to know that I am fine and I am happy. I have had a lot of people ask me for interviews. But right now I don't want to do them. It is a gray and rainy day here in Los Angeles, but my heart is filled with your kindness towards me." He later posted to remind his fans to eat healthily and praised his former manager and publicist.