There was a fantastic interview over the weekend in Roger Ebert‘s paper of record, the Chicago Sun-Times, with the filmmaker getting ready to unveil at Sundance a feature documentary about the late critic.
Anyone who was a regular, early viewer of Siskel & Ebert likely recalls the pair championing Steve James‘ Hoop Dreams, long before there was a documentary renaissance and-or it was fashionable to hype non-fiction. As many have noted, it’s extra-special to now have James, a filmmaker who rose up alongside Ebert and his balcony-jousting partner, revisit the journalist’s life story posthumously.
At one point in the conversation with Sun-Times reporter Mike Thomas, James recalls the moments immediately following Ebert’s passing and how, although it would have made for an incredible sequence, he was glad in the end that one event turned out to be for his eyes and those of a few others, only:
“[His body] was in the chapel at the Rehab Institute. I said [to his wife Chaz], “Look, I brought the camera, but it’s sitting over there and we don’t have to film at all.” His body was lying in the chapel and there were a few close family [members] and friends and business associates, and I felt privileged to just be there among them. Everyone held hands and we all said the Lord’s Prayer, because that apparently was a prayer that Roger [liked] a lot.”
“But the most striking thing about it was that Chaz sat down and she sort of took his hand in hers. He was fairly white. And it was such a striking image of her holding his hand. She kept saying, “I can’t believe how warm his hands are.” She clearly was just in shock about this loss. And if there was one image I would have loved to have, but I wasn’t willing to press to get it, it was that image of those hands, because it was quite moving.”
Life Itself premieres Sunday January 19 in Park City, in what is sure to be an emotional highlight of this year’s festival. James said he hopes there will be a theatrical release at some point. Read the full Q&A here.
Previously on FishbowlNY:
Roger Ebert Documentary Campaign Adds Very Cool T-Shirt
Patch Editor Remembers His Close Friend, Roger Ebert