The 1970 release of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls by 20th Century Fox remains something of a miracle. No movie came as close to capturing the insanity of the dark year of 1969, which included both the Manson murders and Altamont, as Russ Meyer’s brilliantly directed freakout melodrama.
Russ Meyer has always been a cult hero of sorts, and in the last years of his life Ebert became a large-scale version of the same thing, as his refusal to let his diagnosis of papillary thyroid cancer in 2002 reduce his visibility; his occasional outspoken political pronouncements; and his newfound love of cooking (among many other endearing tendencies) won him a whole new generation of Internet fans.
The anomalous detail in Ebert’s career always was that sole screenwriting credit—that of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. (Did any screenwriter with a single credit write a better movie than that?)
How did Meyer and Ebert come into contact with each other? What sort of things did they say to each other? Questions very like these may well be answered when the movie about the making of Beyond is made! Earlier today it was reported that a script about the relationship between Meyer and Ebert written by Simpsons and SCTV veteran Christopher Cluess has been picked up for production by Sobini Films, Permut Presentations, and Chautauqua Entertainment.
It’s still a long way from being cast, shot, edited, and released, but boy, are we keeping our fingers crossed. (Actually, what movie could possibly live up to one’s wildest expectations?)
The pressing question is: Who will play Ebert? Philip Seymour Hoffman? Jonah Hill? It’s an unorthodox choice but I could see Tony Hale pulling it off…..