Roger Ebert is currently keeping busy at TIFF — a festival he's attended since 1977 — where he will also be present for several book signings celebrating the recently released paperback edition of his memoir Life Itself. In the book, the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic shares a candid and personal history that chronicles everything from his career and collaboration with Gene Siskel, to his struggles with thyroid cancer and losing his voice. It's an engaging tale that reads more like a series of intimate essays than a long-winded tome. The title received glowing reviews, with The New York Times citing it as "the best thing Mr. Ebert has ever written."
The esteemed film critic took to his Twitter account this morning to announce some exciting news related to Life Itself. "Whoa! My memoir has been optioned for a doc by Steve James (Hoop Dreams) and Steven Zaillian, with Martin Scorsese as exec producer," he detailed to his followers. Ebert, of course, has appeared in a number of documentaries — Gerald Peary's 2009 film For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism being one of them — but the deeply personal tone of this project and the talent behind it makes it an exciting prospect.
In his 1994 review of Hoop Dreams, Ebert posits that the movie isn't just a documentary, but also "poetry and prose, muckraking and expose, journalism and polemic." He also called it one of the great moviegoing experiences of his lifetime. We think it's safe to say he's more than elated right now to have James behind the adaptation. Zaillian's directing credits include Searching for Bobby Fischer and All the King's Men, but his writing credits excite us more: Gangs of New York, Schindler's List and Moneyball amongst them.
The Chicago Sun-Times critic met soon-to-be exec producer Scorsese in 1969 when the filmmaker was an editor working on Woodstock, five years before his directing career would start to take off. The two share more than a few similarities where their backgrounds are concerned, and also a deep sense of admiration. "I looked him up not long after when I was in New York. We were the same age but I realized his understanding of movies was much deeper than my own," Ebert humbly writes in his memoir. "A daily critic tends to go wide. A director like Scorsese tends to go deep. There would never be a time we met when I didn’t learn something useful and true about the cinema." What a gift for a truly inspiring critic, but also a man who has never lost that wondrous feeling while gazing up at the big screen.