Magnolia Pictures’ latest documentary “Life Itself” hit theaters on June 27, 2014 and yeahstub.com had the opportunity to see the film. The documentary focuses on the incredible and brave life of one of the most well-known film critics of his generation, Roger Ebert. He started as a journalist in Chicago and voiced his opinion through his school newspaper and then the Sun Times and from there he kept excelling until he was able to share his film reviews with audiences all over the U.S. on “At The Movies” with Gene Siskel. He lived a tremendous life filled with both challenges and celebrations that he faced without any fears.
The film focuses on his relationship with Gene, and how they were able to produce some of the best film critic commentary ever. There was also a large focus on Roger’s health and all the struggles he went through with Cancer. Although he was a tremendous fighter and survived multiple surgeries throughout the years, he succumbed to the illness in late 2013. Since he could’t speak, he used many methods to share his opinions and commentary in the last 3 to 5 years of his life, via Twitter and blogs as well as his personal note pad and personal emails, all because he could not be heard through his spoken words. I believe he lived a wonderful life with a huge impact on the film business and leaving behind his loving wife Chaz Ebert.
This week, Martin Scorsese hosted a screening of the film withSteven Zaillian, Michael Ferro, Executive Producers, Director Steve James and Chaz Ebert. Magnolia Pictures along with the Film Society of Lincoln Center, CNN Films Film Rites, Kartemquin Films and KatLei Productions hosted the event sponsored by Jaeger-Le Coultre.
Bob Balaban, Ashleigh Banfield, James Brolin, J.C. Chandor, Jonathan Demme , Griffin Dunne, Paul Haggis, Amy Irving, Kristine Johnson, Carol Kane, Barbara Kopple, Denis Leary, Rebecca Miller, Bennett Miller, Michael Moore, Ingrid Sischy and Sandra Brant, Morgan Spurlock, Danny Strong, Julie Taymor, James Toback, and Terrence and Rachel Winter all walked the red carpet and attended the party at Lincoln Ristorante. Read our exclusive interviews below:
How are you involved with the film?
BB: I am just a friend and a fan, I knew Roger a little bit and loved him and thought he was great, and I have only talked to Chaz a little bit, but I have seen her and known her for functions that she represented for Roger, including an award that Roger got a couple of years ago. I just admire her tremendously, it is very hard to be the voice for somebody who cannot speak and it is very hard to represent somebody now that he is deceased. She’s Rogers face and voice in the world, that’s kind of difficult to do and she does it. Graciously, intelligently, and honestly I really admire her.
Do you think Roger would have approved of this film?
BB: I have no doubt. The only thing that I know about the movie is that I love the director. I mean we all know he is one of the best documentary filmmakers in the world. So this is going to be special. Anyway I think this will be the best thing he will ever make, he will deserve an Academy Award. Chaz told me the other day, that when Steve signed on, he didn’t know that Roger was going to die, he was planning on going to film Festivals and all. Roger died right in the middle of when they were shooting. So he really had to re-invent what he was doing for the documentary. He was going to go backwards, it was supposed to be more of the present, but Steve is so good at documentaries that I’m sure it’s equally as wonderful as it would have been if he had lived.
Director Steve James
What was the inspiration for the documentary?
SJ: Well the inspiration was Roger’s memoir. It’s an amazing piece of writing. It’s a great exciting life. Sort of well-lived. And that’s why, I mean he’s a great critic, an important critic, the story should be told for that alone. But that’s his life and how it informed the way he wrote is what made me want to make the film.
What was the creative process like?
SJ: Well you should see the movie. It tries to get its arms around the whole thing. It’s about his life and about him as a film critic.
How did the film come about?
Chaz: Well Steve James read Roger’s Memoir and wanted to make a movie from it.
Can you tell me a little about the film?
Chaz: I am going to let it be a surprise to you. It’s a very life affirming film. It’s so Roger! And not just the icon, and it’s not just some nice puff piece. It’s a well rounded portrait, it talks about his career, his home life, it talks about his life and his friends.
JC Routh contributed reporting.