Roger Ebert’s Memoir LIFE ITSELF Optioned for Documentary by HOOP DREAMS Director Steve James, Steven Zaillian, and Martin Scorsese

     September 7, 2012


If you need further proof that Roger Ebert is one of the greatest film critics of all time, consider the fact that he’s writing some of the best and most thoughtful essays and reviews at age 70, over forty years after he began his career as a professional film critic.  His 2011 memoir Life Itself is a fascinating read, and now a trio of filmmaking giants has optioned the book for a documentary.  Ebert broke the news himself on Twitter:

“Whoa! My memoir has been optioned for a doc by Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) and Steven Zaillian, with Martin Scorsese as exec producer.”

So that’s Steve James, director of one of the best documentaries of all time (Hoop Dreams), Oscar-winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List, Moneyball), and Mr. Martin Scorsese.  Hit the jump for more, including a reaction from Ebert and the synopsis for his memoir.

life-itself-book-coverJames, Zaillian, and Scorsese is one hell of a development team, and Ebert’s life story (up through his recent, inspiring battle with esophageal cancer) should make for a great documentary.  No further details are known at this time, but Matt Singer at IndieWire reached out to Ebert for further comment:

“This dropped out of the blue. They say they have a good idea for an approach. I believe Steve James’ Hoop Dreams is one of the greatest documentaries ever made, and my hopes for this are so high. I never thought of my book as a doc. I’m keeping hands off any involvement, such as with the screenplay, because I don’t want to be a third wheel. Whatever they do I will be fascinated.”

James’ most recent documentary, The Interrupters, expertly examined violence and poverty in Chicago, and I’m incredibly interested to see how he’ll handle Ebert’s life story.  Hopefully we hear more about the project soon.  In the meantime, read a synopsis for Life Itself below:

Roger Ebert is the best-known film critic of our time. He has been reviewing films for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, and was the first film critic ever to win a Pulitzer Prize. He has appeared on television for four decades, including twenty-three years as cohost of Siskel & Ebert at the Movies.

In 2006, complications from thyroid cancer treatment resulted in the loss of his ability to eat, drink, or speak. But with the loss of his voice, Ebert has only become a more prolific and influential writer. And now, for the first time, he tells the full, dramatic story of his life and career.

Roger Ebert’s journalism carried him on a path far from his nearly idyllic childhood in Urbana, Illinois. It is a journey that began as a reporter for his local daily, and took him to Chicago, where he was unexpectedly given the job of film critic for the Sun-Times, launching a lifetime’s adventures.

In this candid, personal history, Ebert chronicles it all: his loves, losses, and obsessions; his struggle and recovery from alcoholism; his marriage; his politics; and his spiritual beliefs. He writes about his years at the Sun-Times, his colorful newspaper friends, and his life-changing collaboration with Gene Siskel. He remembers his friendships with Studs Terkel, Mike Royko, Oprah Winfrey, and Russ Meyer (for whom he wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and an ill-fated Sex Pistols movie). He shares his insights into movie stars and directors like John Wayne, Werner Herzog, and Martin Scorsese.

This is a story that only Roger Ebert could tell. Filled with the same deep insight, dry wit, and sharp observations that his readers have long cherished, this is more than a memoir-it is a singular, warm-hearted, inspiring look at life itself.

“I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”
-from LIFE ITSELF [Amazon]

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