Filmmaker Steve James and Chaz Ebert tell Kim Masters about the journey of adapting Roger Ebert’s memoir, ‘Life Itself’ to a documentary. James figured finding funding for such a film would be no problem, but as he puts it, he was “exactly wrong about that.” Roger Ebert and his wife Chaz were both on board with the idea of working with James, and filming began in late 2012. But as Roger’s health slipped into a sudden decline, everyone involved had to adapt their plans. Even in very difficult, personal moments, Roger Ebert encouraged James to keep the camera rolling. He passed away just a few months into production. The film traces Ebert’s life from his childhood in Urbana, Illinois, to his days at the Chicago Sun-Times to his often contentious relationship with Gene Siskel. ‘Life Itself’ doesn’t shy away from portraying Ebert as a flawed man who, early in his career, had an outsized ego and a drinking problem. But it also shows a person transformed by love when he met and married his wife Chaz.
Steve James, filmmaker, “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” (@theinterrupters)
Chaz Ebert, Wife of Roger Ebert and President of RogerEbert.com (@ChazEbert)