It’s hard to imagine late film critic Roger Ebert co-writing an X-rated movie with Russ Meyer, one time king of American sexploitation cinema, but shortly after launching his career as a critic, Ebert and Meyer began work on Beyond the Valley of the Dolls; a scathing satire of Hollywood excess.
Taking its name from Jacqueline Susann‘s novel, Valley of the Dolls, which neither of the scriptwriters had read, Beyond was Meyer‘s first step into commercial cinema. Panned upon release despite being a commercial success, the movie has since garnered cult fandom. Ebert wrote that with time the film “seems more and more like a movie that got made by accident when the lunatics took over the asylum“.
The development of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls will play a central role in Michael Winterbottom‘s next film, Russ & Roger. With Josh Gad (Frozen, Jobs) taking the role of Roger Ebert, and Will Ferrell as Russ Meyer, the comedy, scripted by Saturday Night Live‘s Emmy winner Christopher Cluess, will show the tentative beginnings of an unexpected friendship; the development of the duo’s working relationship, and their impact on New Hollywood in the 1960s.
Gad bears a striking resemblance to the young film critic, and has been producer, David Permut‘s first choice for the role. Ebert was known for his defiance of film censorship and the standardization of cinematic entertainment across America. His humanist perspective on film touched all who read his work. Roger Ebert died on April 4, 2013, after a prolonged battle with cancer.