Fresh off of world premiering to rave responses at the Sundance Film Festival, Steve James’ moving Roger Ebert documentary “Life Itself” screened last night at New York City’s Paley Center, at an event hosted by Rooftop Films and Champagne Piper-Heidsieck. Ebert’s widow, Chaz Ebert, was on hand, along with James and Ebert’s good friend, filmmaker Ramin Bahrani (“At Any Price”) for a post-screening Q&A hosted by New York Times’ film critic A.O. Scott, who appears as one of the many talking heads in the film.
Scott covered all the bases, asking James how the film came to be, and getting Chaz to speak about what she’s done to keep Roger’s legacy alive. But the highlight of the discussion came when Chaz, visibly emotional, took a moment to address the audience directly.
“I want to say one thing to this audience tonight,” she said. “I’m really happy to be here and I’m so glad that you all came out.
“Yesterday was hard when I heard about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death… Roger would say, ‘He is one of the best, most versatile actors ever.’ And he also was a brilliant man, you know, human being, just very smart.
“And so Roger always said, ‘If you ever do a movie, where you need someone to play me, I want Philip Seymour Hoffman.’
“I was actually in Sundance last week, and Phil and I never got to see each other there.”
“Life Itself” has a broadcast deal to air on CNN at some point this year. The film has yet to announce its theatrical distributor.