When paying homage to the late Roger Ebert, many admirers graciously overlooked the film critic's odd foray into filmmaking that began with the 1970 Russ Meyer film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. But the story of the unusual collaboration that led to the creation of a deeply strange cult classic is getting a movie of its own. And with Will Ferrell at the front, it could be the next great comedy.
Variety reports that Will Ferrell has entered into talk to headline Russ and Roger Go Beyond. Should he sign on, the star of such hit comedies as Step Brothers, Taladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues would play Russ Meyer, a man who has been described as a filmmaker by some and a pornographer by others.
Technically, the report from Variety doesn't claim that Russ and Roger Go Beyond will be a comedy. Admittedly, that's an educated guess on my part, first and foremost because of the casting of Ferrell. But more than that, the story of this particularly pair seems ripe for comedy. Plus, Russ and Roger Go Beyond has been penned by Christopher Cluess, who has worked on a wide-array of TV comedies, from SCTV Network to Night Court, MADtv and The Simpsons.
As of now, Ferrell is only known to be negotiating as an actor, not a potential producer. Russ and Roger Go Beyond is not being made by his film company Gary Sanchez. Instead, Sobini Films (Peaceful Warrior, Sexy Evil Genius) and Permut Presentations (Farce of the Penguins, Youth in Revolt, Struck By Lightning are producing this independent picture. Of course, beyond Ferrell's involvement, it will be interesting to see who this bizarre biopic will pick to play a young and overeager Roger Ebert.
After working in the Chicago news scene for several years, Ebert was made a film critic at Chicago Sun-Times in 1967. He soon established a reputation for his insightful and entertaining critiques. He was a self-proclaimed cosmopolitan. But in 1970 he went from critic to screenwriter with the urging of Russ Meyer, best-known for making Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Together, Ebert and Meyer wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, a movie that was originally intended as a sequel to the 1967 movie Valley of the Dolls. But ultimately, this camp classic became a parody of its poorly received precursor. According to Ebert, the film was ultimately "a satire of Hollywood conventions, genres, situations, dialogue, characters and success formulas, heavily overlaid with such shocking violence that some critics didn't know whether the movie 'knew' it was a comedy."
While the quality of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls has long been a matter of debate, it was an undisputed financial success. The movie, which was estimated to cost somewhere between $900,000 to $2 million, made an incredible $40 million at the box office. Perhaps this is what urged Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert to reteam for more movies, including Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens, Up! and more.
With both Ebert and Meyer having passed, Russ and Roger Go Beyond could prove a welcomed opportunity to revisit their lives and works. If the producers secure Ferrell, they'll be off to a great start to make the kind of self-aware showbiz comedy Ebert himself might well have appreciated. But who will play Ebert? Tell us in comments who you think should get the part.
To see a trailer from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, click to the next page.