Hoop Dreams director Steve James (pictured) is making a documentary about America’s most famous film critic, Roger Ebert.
Produced by Chicago-based Kartemquin Films with executive producers Steven Zaillian and Martin Scorsese, the yet-to-be-titled film will be based on Ebert’s memoir Life Itself.
“Roger’s life has so much to say about movies over the last 30 to 40 years,” James said in a statement. “And as his memoir makes so clear, his story is also one of great personal struggle and triumph. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Steve and Marty to tell this poignant and entertaining life story.”
Ebert, who was an early champion of both James and Scorsese’s work, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning critic for the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper. Along with the late Gene Siskel, he popularized the “two thumbs up” stamp of approval via their long-running film reviewing show Siskel & Ebert, which was preceded by a memorable run on PBS’ Sneak Previews. His memoir chronicles his career as a film critic, his forays into television and movie scriptwriting (including Russ Meyers’ camp classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls), his bout with alcoholism and battle with thyroid cancer.
“This is a very exciting new project for KTQ and Steve James,” said Kartemquin executive producer Justine Nagan. “We all adore Roger Ebert, and our histories go back to his first year as a film critic, when he reviewed Kartemquin’s first film Home for Life (1966) for the Chicago Sun-Times.”
Ebert himself revealed the news on Friday via a tweet, which read: “Whoa! My memoir has been optioned for a doc by Steve James (Hoop Dreams) and Steven Zaillian, with Martin Scorsese as exec producer.”
Zaillian’s Film Rites and Scorsese’s Sikelia will coproduce the film with Kartemquin. Garrett Basch will serve as producer.