Hugh Hefner Celebrates His 91st Birthday With a New Docuseries

Hugh Hefner and Matt Whelan
Hugh Hefner and Matt Whelan Elayne Lodge

The original Playboy! Legendary editor in chief Hugh Hefner will be turning 91 on Sunday, April 9, and he’s celebrating this year’s birthday in a major way. Not only will the icon host his best buddies at the Playboy Mansion for his annual Casablanca-themed birthday bash (Hefner traditionally celebrates his birthday every year by throwing a party centered around his favorite classic film), but he’s also getting another birthday present: Amazon will premiere American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story on Friday, April 7. The 10-part docuseries will chronicle the charismatic Playboy founder’s life and times and the impact he and his magazine have had on our global culture. 

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The series, which will be available to stream via Amazon Prime, combines never-before-seen footage from Hefner’s private archives with dramatic re-creations of pivotal moments in Playboy history, in which the magazine mogul is played by Narcos actor Matt Whelan. Whelan, who met with Hefner at his mansion in Holmby Hills, California, in preparation for his role, says that the man himself gave him his nod of approval. “He was a gentleman, very charming and friendly.” Whelan tells Us Weekly of his meeting with Hefner. “I remember mentioning how much I enjoyed stepping into his shoes for the five and a half weeks we shot American Playboy, and he said with a big smile on his face, ‘Yeah I bet! I’ve enjoyed the last 90 years living it.’”

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The revolutionary magazine, which debuted in 1953, has gone through many changes in the past 63 years. This past February, Hugh Hefner’s son Cooper, 25, who serves as Playboy’s chief creative officer, announced that the magazine would bring back nude models after instating a short-lived ban. “I’ll be the first to admit that the way in which the magazine portrayed nudity was dated but removing it entirely was a mistake,” Cooper explained. “Nudity was never the problem because nudity isn’t a problem. Today we’re taking our identity back and reclaiming who we are.” 

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The junior Hefner hosted a party both celebrating American Playboy and toasting his dad’s 91st birthday at his family’s famous home  Tuesday, April 4. (Attendees at the soirée included Hugh’s former girlfriend Kendra Wilkinson, singer Miguel and Oscar-winning actor Jared Leto). “It was clear my dad’s aim when launching Playboy was to promote a healthy conversation about sex while also encouraging dialogue on social, philosophical and religious opinions,” Cooper wrote in an updated take on his dad’s famous Playboy Philosophy letter. “The idea behind the magazine was that while these topics were popular in people’s minds, they were almost never spoken about in public or discussed over dinner or drinks at cocktail parties around the country, as they should have been.”

American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story premieres on Amazon Prime Friday, April 7. 

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