LOS ANGELES—Deadline.com is reporting that Will Ferrell is licking his chops over the chance to portray legendary softcore movie producer Russ Meyer in an independent film that explores the relationship between Meyer and film critic Roger Ebert during their collaboration on Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
"Ferrell still has to make a deal, but he puts this on a fast track and the hope is to shoot early next year," reports Mike Fleming for the trade site.
The satire, written by SNL and The Simpsons writer Christopher Cluess, focuses on a period of time when "counterculture films like Easy Rider were minting money, and 20th Century Fox was struggling mightily over a number of big-budget flops. Meyer was already established as the outlaw helmer of softcore pulp films like Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill, and he wanted the legitimacy of making a studio film. Richard Zanuck, then head of 20th, gave him that opportunity because his profit margins were so high and his costs were minuscule."
Fleming reports that Meyer insisted that Ebert write the screenplay for his movie, because, he implies, Ebert "had written one of the few positive reviews Meyer had ever received. Given the esteem in which Ebert was held as a film critic when he died, it seems remarkable he meshed so well with Meyer and his brigade of buxom actresses.
"The film," adds Fleming, "will follow that relationship, and the struggle with the ratings board. It became the rare major studio release with an X rating, but it became a big profitable hit and Meyer and Ebert stayed close until the former died in 2004."
A director is not yet attached to the project, adds Fleming. "Filmmakers including Edgar Wright are intrigued," he writes, "as are actors who might play the late Ebert, a strong role for anyone from Jonah Hill to Seth Rogen and others.
The production team of Mark Amin’s Sobini Films and David Permut and Richard Waltzer are reportedly in place for the movie, currently titled Russ & Roger Go Beyond.