While the film offers a full look at Ebert’s life from start to finish, here are some off-the-set details worth remembering about James’ documentary filmmaking process and Mrs. Ebert’s personal point of view captured within it.
1. “Life Itself” was more than just a collaborative project between Roger Ebert, Steve Zaillian, and Steve James.
“I think reading the memoir was such a revelation about what an extraordinary life he had, that included movies but was also apart from movies… Instead of having a three-act life he had a seven-act life, and I loved that story.” – Steve James
2. Documenting Ebert’s illness was both intrusive and welcomed by the Ebert family.
“One of the days where Roger was really struggling in the rehab, you could just see the kind of pain he was in […] but he said ‘Bring the cameras in, if we’re going to do it, lets show the whole thing.’ Roger was a big proponent of cinema verité.” – Chaz Ebert
3. Ebert’s strong patronage for documentary filmmakers inspired James to make his biographical documentary.
“I would not have done the film if I had read the memoir and didn’t like him… From the start, this was going to be an admiring portrait, ultimately, but I also felt a need just like he did in the memoir for it to be well-rounded and hopefully show a sense of fullness of him because he was a multi-faceted human being.” – Steve James
4. Chaz Ebert married Roger for many of the same reasons he was adored as a film critic.
“No. 1: his brilliance. I always loved smart men, and Roger was brilliant. He was funny, he had a self-confidence that I found very attractive and he adored me.” -Chaz Ebert
READ MORE: ‘Life Itself’ Director Steve James Explains Why Roger Ebert Deserved a Documentary