Russ_Roger

It was inevitable that Roger Ebert‘s life story would end up on film in some manner. A documentary or two seemed the most likely method, but a couple producers have something else in mind, and are putting together a dramatic feature.

The film is called Russ & Roger Go Beyond, and it has a script by Christopher Cluess (SNL, The Simpsons) that tells the tale of the collaboration and unique friendship between director Russ Meyer and critic as they worked together on Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Ebert scripted the film for the b-movie mogul whose drive-in cheapies featured outrageously busty women, strange comedy, and plenty of sordid thrills and violence.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, co-written by Ebert and Meyer and directed by Meyer, wasn’t quite like the director’s other “bosomania” efforts. It was originally developed as a sequel to the trashy drug melodrama Valley of the Dolls. (Where “dolls” meant pills, not women.) But Ebert and Meyer eventually scripted the film as a spoof of the original and, as Ebert said, ”a satire of Hollywood conventions, genres, situations, dialogue, characters and success formulas, heavily overlaid with such shocking violence that some critics didn’t know whether the movie ‘knew’ it was a comedy.”

So who plays Ebert, and who plays Meyer? At this point we don’t know; there’s just the intent to make the film. This seems like a pretty small affiar; in fact, odds would optimistically say it has a 50/50 chance of ever getting made.

Here’s the press release:

Los Angeles, CA – (October 8, 2013) Mark Amin’s Sobini Films is partnering with David Permut’s Permut Presentations and Richard Waltzer’s Chautauqua Entertainment to acquire RUSS & ROGER GO BEYOND, a screenplay written by Emmy winner Christopher Cluess (SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, THE SIMPSONS) based on the true story of the unique relationship between provocative filmmaker Russ Meyer and legendary critic Roger Ebert while they made BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS at 20th Century Fox.
 
Permut, Amin and Waltzer will produce the film with Sobini Films’ Cami Winikoff, Tyler Boehm and David Higgins and Permut Presentations’ Chris Mangano Executive Producing, and Steve Longi Co-producing.
 
At the end of the 60’s when films like EASY RIDER and BONNIE & CLYDE were reaching new audiences, Meyer, the outlaw director of soft-core pulp films like FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL, KILL, KILL was given the opportunity to fulfill his lifelong dream of directing a studio film by Richard Zanuck, then head of 20th Century Fox. The studio was struggling with a string of big budget failures and Zanuck thought Meyer was the solution.  He offered him BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS and Meyer agreed on the condition that Ebert, then the third string film critic for the Chicago Sun Times (who had written one of the few positive reviews of his work) would write the script. BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS became a struggle between the outsider filmmakers and the establishment studio’s board of directors, particularly over the film’s rating. Meyer, Ebert and Zanuck were ultimately vindicated when BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS was released in 1970 to huge box office success.
 
Meyer and Ebert remained friends until Meyer passed away in September 2004. Ebert passed away earlier this year after a long public battle with cancer.  Last month the Toronto International Film Festival’s opening night paid tribute to Roger Ebert’s life and career.
 
Sobini Films recently finished shooting period thriller ELIZA GRAVES directed by Brad Anderson and starring Kate Beckinsale, Jim Sturgess, Ben Kingsley and Michael Caine. Sobini’s upcoming projects include A MOMENT TO REMEMBER, a remake of the hit Korean drama by the same name with Ben Lewin (THE SESSIONS) directing and a futuristic reboot of the Zorro franchise.
 
Permut Presentations recently announced their upcoming feature film projects I AM CHIPPENDALES, written and to be directed by Alan Ball about the dark true-story behind the birth of the famous Los Angeles male strip club, and a Sam Kinison bio-pic to be directed by Larry Charles, staring Josh Gad as the drug fueled preacher turned comedian.  Also, Permut is wrapping post production on his next film MATCH, starring Patrick Stewart, and the made for television movie THE COLOR OF RAIN, based on the best-selling book of the same name.

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