Martin Scorsese grabs movie rights to Roger Ebert’s memoirs

Roger Ebert Martin Scorsese

Imagine, if you will, that you’re the world’s most prominent film critic. You’ve held this position for the past three decades, and your name has become synonymous with film reviews (much like Albert Einstein’s name is synonymous with high intelligence). Unfortunately, you’ve been troubled by major health problems in recent years and have had to cut back your work schedule. Your days on the planet are unfortunately numbered, and one day you’ll be gone. If only there was some way that you could leave a legacy befitting your years as the most prominent name in cinematic criticism.

Luckily, if you happen to be Roger Ebert — and really, who else would that description apply to? — your legacy just got a huge shot in the arm with the news that legendary director Martin Scorsese has optioned the film rights to Mr. Ebert’s newly-published autobiographical book Life Itself.

Ebert, the consummate journalist, broke news of the deal himself on his Twitter feed. “Whoa! My memoir has been optioned for a doc by Steve James (“Hoop Dreams”) and Steven Zaillian, with Martin Scorsese as exec producer,” he wrote. When contacted by IndieWire for a comment, Ebert seemed enthusiastic about the film. Here’s what he had to say:

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.

Well, there you have it. Even if we wanted to, we don’t have nearly enough professional clout to question Roger Ebert’s opinion on a hypothetical movie based on a book he himself wrote, so let’s just say we’re psyched about the project. If it’s good enough for Ebert, it’s good enough for us (and yes, we’re doing our best to forget his screenplay for Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls).

Since this news unfortunately lacks any solid information on when this project enters production or might hit theaters, we’re left with little to discuss here, though before we walk away from this article, we’d like to posit one question: With Scorsese taking an executive producer role on this film, will that stymie his ability to include The Rolling Stones on the soundtrack? It may not perfectly complement Ebert’s life or body of work, but at this point a Scorsese film without Mick Jagger yowling in the background would be like a Scorsese film that doesn’t prominently feature Leonardo DiCaprio: It happens, but not very often.

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