Ever since his scene-stealing voice performance as Olaf the Snowman in Disney’s Frozen, Josh Gad has been in-demand, appearing in everything from a Steve Jobs biopic (playing Steve Wozniak) to this year’s (terrible) video game-themed blockbuster Pixels. Now we’ve got word that the actor is set to play one of the most loved and fondly remembered figures in the film journalism industry; the late-great Roger Ebert.
Variety reports that Gad will be playing him in the STX Entertainment “crazier than fiction” comedy Russ & Roger, which will focus on the time the critic turned screenwriter for director Russ Meyer’s controversial 1970 film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Gad was reportedly up for the role for some time but scheduling has finally permitted him signing on the dotted line.
Will Ferrell is already on-board to play opposite Gad as sexploitation maestro Meyer, as is Michael Winterbottom (The Killer Inside Me, The Look of Love) as director. The script is written by Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons writer Christopher Cluess, with Winterbottom and producers polishing it up. Here’s the outline as reported:
A debauched comedy in which truth is crazier than fiction, the film is an outrageous look at two no-holds-barred outsiders who defied the Hollywood establishment to make one of the first X-rated films ever released by a major movie studio (“Beyond the Valley of the Dolls”) — having the party of a lifetime in the process.
That’s certainly not the type of biopic I’d expect about Ebert. The wonderful documentary Life Itself (seriously, if you haven’t seen that then seek it out ASAP) skillfully and emotionally fulfilled the need for a more dramatic and real look at the man’s life. But still, “debauched comedy” is not the phrase that comes to mind when I hear that they’re making a movie about Roger Ebert.
As for Gad playing him, I think it’s a fine piece of casting, especially since it’s not going the ultra serious route; Gad can certainly hold his own as a dramatic actor (he’s great in Zach Braff’s underrated dramedy Wish I Was Here, for example) but his talents lie in being outlandish. It also doesn’t hurt that he looks quite a bit like Ebert when he was younger.
What do you think of the casting?
Gad will next be seen/heard in the Angry Birds movie, as well as playing Le Fou in Disney’s new version of Beauty and the Beast.