David O Russell's biopic of Russ Meyer has yet to burst out of development, but there's now another project involving the smut auteur in the works. Sobini Films, Permut Presentations and Chautauqua Entertainment have come together for Russ & Roger Go Beyond, charting Meyer's unlikely collaboration with the late, great Roger Ebert on Beyond The Valley Of the Dolls.
Meyer shot newsreel footage during WWII, and in peacetime began to find success as a glamour photographer during Playboy's early years. In the early 60s he started filming soft porn "nudie cuties", before hitting on his own niche of weirdly violent live-action cartoons, full of massive-breasted, aggressively dominant women, and spineless quivering men. And Charles Napier. Once publicly accused of being "nothing but a tit man", he retorted, "That's only the half of it."
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! was the flick that put him on the map, followed by such equally scurrilous classics as Vixen!, Supervixens! and Up! He liked exclamation marks almost as much as he liked boobs. He wrote, produced, directed, and self-financed most of his films, and retained all the rights, dying a rich man in 2004. His headstone reads "King of the nudies. I was glad to do it."
Ebert was an admirer from early on. "Russ had a very healthy, go-ahead, unapolagetic way of celebrating the female form," he told Meyer biographer Jimmy McDonough. "I found him to be one of the most fascinating men I ever met. He was smart, funny, extroverted, robust, no bullshit." The pair apparently shared a sense of humour, and a love of movies and food. Plus, said Meyer, "Ebert has that wonderful sickness about him: Bosomania. He's truly a Jekyll and Hyde: we've got to make that clear. He's more debauched than I!"
Having decided to work together on the film Meyer would eventually regard as his masterpiece, they hammered out a treatment in three days, a first draft in three weeks, and the finished screenplay in six. Ebert proudly called Beyond "a camp sexploitation horror musical that ends in quadruple ritual murder and a triple wedding". He went on to contribute, uncredited, to further Meyer projects, but always denied Meyer's claim that he demanded "a girl at the end of every week" as part of his payment. "I did not," he said. "Nor, for that matter, did I get one."
Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls was, uniquely for Meyer, a studio picture for Fox, leading to many colourful production battles, not least over its MPAA rating. Russ & Roger Go Beyond then, has the potential to be a hugely entertaining making-of yarn, as well as a document of a beautiful friendship. The script is by Simpsons and Saturday Night Live alumnus Christopher Cluess, but there's no director or start date yet. Give us your thoughts on your ideal Meyer and Ebert casting in the comments section.