'Russ & Roger' to Chronicle Friendship of Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert
by Ethan Anderton
October 9, 2013
Though legendary film critic Roger Ebert sadly passed away earlier this year, his legacy lives on in his impeccable film criticism and writing about the art of cinema. But the critic will also live on in the movies as well. A press release sent out from Sobini Films, Permut Presentations and Chautauqua Entertainment has announced acquisition of Russ & Roger Go Beyond, a screenplay from Christopher Cluess (a writer on "Saturday Night Live" and "The Simpsons") which follows the friendship between filmmaker Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert while working on the film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls for Fox in the late 1960s.
Here's the official synopsis of the tale that Cluess tells with his script Russ & Roger Go Beyond:
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.
Their work on the film resulted in a life-long friendship that lasted until 2004 when Meyer passed away. These kind of dramatizations that go behind the scenes of filmmaking really hold a special place in my heart. It's awesome to see today's actors disappear into roles playing other iconic players in the film industry. The film is obviously just now beginning development, so there are no actors attached to play Meyer and Ebert, but I'm pretty sure Philip Seymour Hoffman would be perfect in either role. Stay tuned.