Although it has been rumored for some time, it’s now finally official. Actor Josh Gad, best known for his roles in recent movies like The Wedding Ringer and Pixels, not to mention as the voice of Olaf the snow man in Frozen, has signed on to play the late, great film critic Roger Ebert alongside Will Ferrell as director Russ Meyer in Russ & Roger. The film tells the true story of how two of the unlikeliest people got the keys to the kingdom from a major Hollywood studio, and together created the camp classic hit film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
Back in 1969, Roger Ebert was a young movie critic working for a Chicago paper, and Russ Meyer was best known for making soft-core sexploitation flicks like Vixen and Faster, Pussycat…Kill! Kill!, movies well known for their very buxom female stars. The major movie studios were having a hell of a time connecting with the youth audience, as teens and young adults were rejecting the typical Hollywood studio fare and instead going to see counter culture movies like Easy Rider and Midnight Cowboy. In what was seen as a desperate move from Twentieth Century Fox to capture the youth market, they hired Roger Ebert to write and Russ Meyer to direct a pseudo-sequel to their hit film Valley of the Dolls.
What resulted from this unique partnership was sheer on-screen craziness, as Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is a camptastic souffle of a movie. It throws references to almost everything about late 1960s pop culture up on the big screen at once, like hippie rock groups, drugs, music producer Phil Spector, free love, Muhammad Ali, and even the Manson murders, which seemed especially tacky at the time. (They had just happened when the film was shot, and had claimed the life of original Valley of the Dolls star Sharon Tate.)
The funniest part about the whole thing is that both Ebert and Meyers were total outsiders to the “cool kids” scenes in Hollywood, making the movie come off as something a bunch of dorky dudes thinks is hip with young people, versus actually being hip–which makes the movie even more endearing. The movie was huge hit for Fox though, and one of the first X-rated movies to be released by a major studio. Unfortunately, the pair were not asked back to make more films for unknown reasons.
The script for Russ & Roger is being written by Emmy-winning Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons writer Christopher Cluess, and is being directed by Michael Winterbottom. The movie is expected to start shooting sometime this year for a 2016 release.
HT: Yahoo Movies
IMAGE: Empire Online