Twentieth Century Fox and Regency Enterprises
Last night, millions of viewers got to know the real Roger Ebert through CNN’s TV premiere of the documentary Life Itself. Soon enough, they’ll also get a dramatic portrayal of the late film critic in Russ & Roger Go Beyond. The movie is an extended account of one part of Ebert’s life featured briefly in the doc, his co-writing of the screenplay for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Russ Meyer’s 1970 cult classic satire/sequel to Valley of the Dolls. Last summer, Will Ferrell was announced for the co-titular role of Russ, and now Josh Gad has been named to play Roger.
Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeff Wells scooped the news from producer David Permut at an event over the weekend, but there’s nothing official yet. The Wrap reports this morning that Gad has not signed on, nor has he even read the script, which is by Emmy-winning sitcom and sketch comedy writer Chris Cluess (MADtv). Ever since development on the movie was made public, Gad has been mentioned as a proper fit for the part, along with such names as Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill, the latter actually having been the original choice for the project, according to Wells.
Gad is no stranger to playing real people, having portrayed Steve Wozniak opposite Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs in 2013’s Jobs (a role Rogen will play in the other Jobs biopic that’s now in the works). He’s also quite the scene stealer, both in live-action (Love & Other Drugs, pictured above) and animated features (he’s the voice of Olaf in Frozen). Depending on how broad Russ & Roger is with its comedic take on the true story, Gad could very well upstage Ferrell – or at least match him if the chemistry is right.
The rising star, who is also known for his lead performance on stage in The Book of Mormon and can be seen soon opposite Kevin Hart in The Wedding Ringer, seems to just be one of a few actors of a certain physique that puts him on any shortlist for someone of similar build, but he also has the chops to make it work (unlike teenage me, who only looked perfect for the part). His voice is probably the least suitable aspect of him for this particular role, so maybe they can get the perfect Ebert vocal impersonator Stephen Stanton (he’s the one who narrates as the critic in Life Itself) to dub his lines.