Life Itself

Synopsis: 'Life Itself' recounts the surprising and entertaining life of world-renowned film critic and social commentator Roger Ebert - a story that's by turns personal, wistful, funny, painful, and transcendent. The film explores the impact and legacy of Roger Ebert's life: from his Pulitzer Prize-winning film criticism and his nearly quarter-century run with Gene Siskel on their review show, to becoming one of the country's most influential cultural voices, and finally to Roger's inspiring battles with cancer and the resulting physical disability - how he literally and symbolically put a new face on the disease and continued to be a cultural force despite it.
Director(s): Steve James
Production: Magnolia Pictures
  25 wins & 31 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
120 min

We all are born

with a certain package.

We are who we are.

Where we were born,

who we were born as,

how we were raised.

We're kind of

stuck inside that person...

...and the purpose of

civilization and growth,

is to be able to reach out

and empathize a little bit

with other people.

And for me, the movies are like

a machine that generates empathy.

It lets you understand

a little bit more

about different hopes,

aspirations, dreams and fears.

It helps us

to identify with the people

who are sharing

this journey with us.

Exactly five months

before his death,

Roger and Chaz and I

met to plan

the beginning of an ambitious

schedule of filming,

including interviews

and critic screenings.

Roger mentioned in passing

that his hip was sore.

The very next day

he entered the hospital.

So now I got a

hairline fracture to the femur bone.

I didn't fall and have no idea

how it happened.

It's bloody painful.

This is my seventh time at rehab.

This table is weird.

I type much, much better

at home in my usual chair.

Show Steve the new chair.

It reclines.

He will see more of it.

So Roger, did you not pay

your insurance premiums,

and so you didn't get

the chair till now?

Steve, I'll do the jokes here.

This is Flora.

Also, this is Sonya Evans,

my stepdaughter.

I do what they tell me to do.

You wanna rest a little bit,

or work a little bit?

Steve is the director.

I'm just gonna sit down.

Although Roger had supported

my films over the years,

this film was the first chance

to really get to know him.

Steve, shoot yourself

in the mirror.

There he is.

Hi, Carol.

I'm Carol.

I'm Roger's assistant

for over 20 years,

Roger and Chaz.

And Zero Dark something

is winning all the awards, Roger.

It won another big award.

And the Bears lost.

"My daily..." What?


Okay, Roger.

And then Mayor Daley's,

you know, nephew

went to court today.

Remember, for the Koschman thing

that the Sun-Times

really uncovered...

I always worked

on newspapers.

There was a persistent need,

not only to write,

but to publish.

In grade school, I wrote and

published the Washington Street News,

which I solemnly delivered

to neighbors in Urbana, Illinois,

as if it existed independently of me.

At the News Gazette,

a line-o-type operator

set my by-line in lead:

"By Roger Ebert."

I was electrified.

When I went home with it,

you could take a stamp pad,

you could put your by-line

on everything.

My parents finally

had to take it away from me.

Everything was by Roger Ebert.

And I went to work full-time

for the local newspaper

when I was 15,

first as a sports writer,

general assignment,

working late,

being there with the newspapermen

back in the '50s.

It was unspeakably romantic.

I can write,

I just always could.

On the other hand,

I flunked French five times.

In the spring of 1960, I announced

I wanted to go to Harvard,

like Jack Kennedy

and Thomas Wolfe.

"Boy, there's no money to send

you to Harvard," Daddy said.

The Urbana Champaign campus

of the University of Illinois:

to provide knowledge

for a better tomorrow.

I would go

to my hometown university.

I wouldn't be

an electrician like my father.

He told me one day

his father said to him,

"Roger, there's professors

over there,

that's what you oughta do some day.

You wanna sit there

with a pipe,

and a cardigan sweater

with your feet up on the desk."

I think his father recognized

early on that Roger had a gift.

I joined The Daily Illini,

and I ran into him then.

During my years at Illinois,

I spent more time working on

The Daily Illini than studying.

It was in every sense

a real newspaper,

published five days a week,

on an ancient Goss rotary press

that made the building tremble.

As editor,

I was a case study:

tactless, egotistical,

merciless, and a showboat.

And he was.

But it worked

because he could back it up.

It was intimidating

to the members of the staff

because he was like

a mature writer at that time.

Now here, when those

four children were killed

in the church bombing

in Birmingham,

there was a huge protest

around the country.

Four hundred students gathered

on the university quadrangle

to protest the bombing

of an Alabama Sunday school.

And Roger was the voice

of outrage on this campus.

He started off his column by quoting

Dr. Martin Luther King,

who said to George Wallace,

"The blood of these innocent children

is on your hands."

That ended the quote.

Then Roger began his column

by saying,

"That is not entirely the truth.

And it is not new blood.

It is old, very old.

And as Lady Macbeth discovered,

it will not ever wash away."

That began a column written

by a 21 -year-old guy,

and he said it better

than anybody said it all week.

Roger was editor

on November 22nd, 1963,

when John F. Kennedy was shot.

At around two o'clock

in the morning, the presses rolled,

gigantic presses,

two stories high,

chug and chug,

and Ebert was doing

what editors do

at the end of the day:

check out the pages.

And he opens it up and there's

a picture of John F. Kennedy,

and an ad of a pilgrim

with a musket

pointed at Kennedy's head.

Ebert said,

"We gotta switch this."

The pressman said like,

"Hear that sound, Roger?

That's the sound

of newspapers being printed."

Unlike in movies,

you didn't stop the presses.

And Ebert said,

"We're not gonna print that tomorrow.

We gotta stop the presses."

Ebert became famous

to us for that,

because, you know,

here was a kid

taking control

of an adult situation

and making a news judgment,

an important one.

Chicago was the great city

over the horizon.

We read Chicago's newspapers

and listened to its powerful

AM radio stations.

Good evening,

ladies and gentlemen,

it's midnight here in Chicago.

Long after midnight,

I listened to Jack Egan

broadcasting live.

Chez Lounge and

the world famous Chez Paree.

Chatting with Martin and

Lewis, or Rosemary Clooney.

I'd been accepted

as a PhD candidate in English

by the University of Chicago,

but I needed a job.

I got a part time job

at the Sun-Times,

and then five months later,

the film critic retired

and they gave me the job.

I did not apply for it.

Newspaper film critics

had been interchangeable.

Some papers had by-lines

that different people wrote under.

For example,

the Tribune had Mae Tinee,

and that could be whoever

went to the movies that day.

Because Mae Tinee really

spelled out "matinee."

I was at that time the youngest

daily film critic in America.

And it was a real good time

to be a movie critic.

Armed robbery.

Bet you wouldn't have the gumption

to use it.

Now, come here.

It is also

- Hey! What's your name, anyhow?

- Clyde Barrow.

Hi, I'm Bonnie Parker.

Pleased to meet you.

"The fact that the story

is set 35 years ago

doesn't mean a thing.

It had to be set sometime,

Roger was the most facile writer

I ever came across.

Anybody that has ever seen him work.

Rate this script:3.5 / 2 votes

Dan Fogelman

Dan Fogelman is an American television producer and screenwriter whose screenplays include Tangled, as well as Crazy, Stupid, Love, and the Pixar film Cars. more…

All Dan Fogelman scripts | Dan Fogelman Scripts

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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