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by Nigel M Smith
February 4, 2014 11:37 AM
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Roger Ebert's Widow Reveals That the Critic Wanted Philip Seymour Hoffman to Play Him in a Film

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.

READ MORE Roger Ebert documentary premieres to laughter and tears

"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.

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  • H. Jackson | February 5, 2014 6:07 PMReply

    Wow, that woman has absolutely no shame. First she spends months exploiting Roger Ebert's death, creating a media spectacle around herself in order to grab the spotlight away from her husband. Then she thinks she's entitled to publicly drag Philip Seymour Hoffman into her self-absorbed fantasies because he died too? The ego she must have, and what a lack of respect for other people. Shame on her.

  • Yea | February 6, 2014 10:36 AM

    H. Jackson: I guess I'm just going to have to agree to disagree. I see nothing where you see scandal. I don't understand how someone talking about two other people and their relationship to each other could be claiming things for themselves.

    Until I can grasp your point, I continue to scratch my head.

  • Dave's Deluxe | February 6, 2014 1:30 AM

    H. Jackson, I'm agreeing with you somewhat, that there is definitely ego involved. But if you don't think it's possible that Roger Ebert went around telling people he wanted PSH to play him in a big-budget 3-hour-biopic of his life that he naturally assumed would get greenlit because he's Roger Ebert dammit, then you aren't familiar with his infamous ego. The wife's apple doesn't fall far from the husband's tree.

  • H. Jackson | February 5, 2014 8:51 PM

    YEA: How do you know what her husband's wishes were? Because she says so? What she's doing with Hoffman is a compliment on the surface but is really about her trying to bask in the reflected glory of Roger Ebert and Philip Seymour Hoffman. What she said wasn't so much about Hoffman as about drawing a tenuous link between him and her. We know he was a great actor and we know Ebert wrote admiringly of him. We've known all that for years. OK, she could have stopped with that. But now she wants us all to know that she was at Sundance talking to someone about Hoffman and claimed her husband wanted Hoffman to play him in a movie and then "Phil" died. Great story. The ego of that, to deflect attention from the recently deceased to herself, as if the real shame of Hoffman's death was that he wouldn't get to fulfill the honor of playing Roger Ebert in accordance with the wishes of Roger and Chaz Ebert. That's what she's implying, whether she realizes it or not. There are times to speak and there are times to just shut up and show some respect and not grab the spotlight. Don't claim a great actor's death for yourself.

  • Yea | February 5, 2014 7:03 PM

    What the hell are you even talking about?

    She is explicitly following her husbands wishes. And she's isn't dragging PSH anywhere, she's revealing that RE thought he was an amazing actor, so much so that he wanted PSH to play him; which is an incredibly amazing thing to say about anybody. She is obviously trying to honor his memory.

    You have absolutely nothing of substance to say. Shame on You!

  • Joey Diggs | February 5, 2014 7:06 AMReply

    Sounds like some serious business dude.

  • kaceytron | February 5, 2014 12:34 AMReply

    i hate muricans, no wonder there shitty actors die from drugs, if u dont get exercise and eat shitty murican food of course ull die from anything u get near because ur immune system is weak

  • Jamie Roberts | February 5, 2014 8:53 AM

    You think he was a musician? You're a moron.

  • Loltool | February 5, 2014 1:37 AM

    LOL what an assbag comment from an obvious assbag. Nice fail.

  • Pete | February 5, 2014 12:51 AM

    You're saying his heroine over dose was due to a weak immune system? That's the stupidest thing I've read all day. A person usually dies from a heroine overdose because their body basically forgets to breath, sometimes it makes your blood pressure drop so much you have heart failure. Either way, neither of those have to do with your immune system, your immune system fights diseases. Heroin just sedates you to the point your body stops functioning, and it can kill anyone no matter how strong they are.