Will Ferrell is circling to play softcore film producer Russ Meyer in a movie about the time he collaborated with film critic Roger Ebert to make Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. The indie project is taking shape quickly. Filmmakers including Edgar Wright are intrigued, as are actors who might play the late Ebert, a strong role for anyone from Jonah Hill to Seth Rogen and others. Mark Amin’s Sobini Films and David Permut and Richard Waltzer are producing Russ & Roger Go Beyond, a script by Emmy-winning Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons scribe Christopher Cluess. Ferrell still has to make a deal, but he puts this on a fast track and the hope is to shoot early next year.
The script focus is the late 1960s, when cheap 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.
When Meyer agreed to take on Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, he insisted the script get written by Ebert, the third-string movie critic of the Chicago Sun Times who 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 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. Ebert passed away two years ago. Ferrell, who most recently starred with Kevin Hart in the Etan Cohen-directed comedy Get Hard, is repped by CAA and Mosaic.
Here’s the original trailer: