Expect plenty of heated reaction when they announce who will play Roger Ebert in the recently greenlit biopic about his collaboration with director Russ Meyer on the 1970 cult classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
The macho, boisterous, “right wing” Meyer befriended a young, nerdy, liberal Ebert, after the latter defended Meyer’s ribald “nudie” flicks about big-busted ball-busters in the Wall Street Journal.
When a sclerotic Twentieth Century Fox picked outsider Meyer to make a movie that all the hip, happening young fans of Easy Rider would flock to see, Meyer dragged young (but not at all hip or happening) Ebert down from Chicago to Hollywood to work on a script.
In a few weeks, Ebert bashed out Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, a frenetic, psychedelic extravaganza about an all-girl rock band and their young, decadent, sexually ambiguous pals — directed by a raving heterosexual WWII veteran who hated modern music and all its commie pinko hippie pomps and works.
Meyer directed his actors not to blink for some reason, and, more importantly, never told them they were starring in a comedy — all the better to wring out their most serious, histrionic performances.
And keeping a straight face must have been hard for performers obliged to utter such Ebert-penned gems as “this is my happening and it freaks me out!” — later lifted with a wink by Mike Meyers for his Austin Powers films — and “you will drink the black sperm of my vengeance!”