When a memoir as rich as the late Roger Ebert‘s “Life Itself” exists, there creates the opportunity that a film like “Salinger” had to fashion a half-cocked mystery to match—a comprehensive view of the renowned film critic’s life from the man himself. It provides the chance for insightful biographical documentaries like Steve James‘ upcoming film to be made, but it also allows for fictional recreations of notable avenues from the beloved writer’s life. One of these paths was his relationship with B-movie jack-of-all-trades Russ Meyer (“Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!“), which started with Ebert being an early supporter of his work and turned into a life-long friendship between the two. Their writing collaboration on 1970’s “Beyond The Valley of the Dolls” remains their most notorious effort though, and now a new dramatic feature is being prepped to delve into that fruitful period.
Entitled “Russ & Roger Go Beyond,” the new film boasts a screenplay written by Emmy winner Christopher Cluess (“The Simpsons,” “SNL”), and purports to follow Ebert and Meyer as they travel to Hollywood and hunker down at 20th Century Fox while creating ‘Beyond,’ a so-called “sequel” to the original “Valley of the Dolls.” Of course, the result ended up as a manic swirl of genre tropes, acid-drenched dialogue, and Strawberry Alarm Clock, but If you’re wondering how the duo landed at a major studio with such an eccentric film in their hands, the simple answer is: New Hollywood. As bold works like “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Easy Rider” struck a nerve in the late 1960s, studios like Fox grew panicked and brought in auteurs like Meyer to guide them. On this once-in-a-lifetime occasion though, it was Meyer who requested Ebert as his co-writer for their spoof of Hollywood culture and genre tropes.
Three production companies—Sobini Films, Permut Presentations, and Chautauqua Entertainment—are currently involved in bringing Cluess’ script to the screen. However, it’s worth noting that none other than David O. Russell was planning a Russ Meyer biopic back in 2011, written by “Lovelace” screenwriter Merritt Johnson, that never came to fruition. There’s no indication if that project is still hanging around, or whether that version crossed over with this new drama’s chosen timeline. But while we wait to see if Ebert and Meyer’s anarchic workings make it to the screen, enjoy an archival clip of the pair themselves as they recount writing the ‘Dolls’ screenplay during an anniversary screening, followed by the original teaser trailer. And give us your opinion on who should play the two legendary men. [SlashFilm]