Disney thumbs nose at Ebert

From August 27, 2007:

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An Associated Press story in The Los Angeles Times reports that Roger Ebert‘s signature “thumbs up/thumbs down” coda, as used on his syndicated movie review show, has become a sticking point in the film critic’s contract negotiations with the program’s producer, Disney-ABC Domestic Television.


Editor’s note: The real core issue here – whether an Ebert pay cut is justifiable by the Disney brass, given his extended absence from AT THE MOVIES due to recurring health issues – has been amusingly downplayed in this AP wire story in favor of a subplot involving removal of the trademarked “thumbs” iconography and phrasing from brand-new episodes, hosted by Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times and Robert Wilonsky of the Dallas Observer. Since the press has already given this “development” too much play, I’d like to turn your attention towards a quandry that’s way more interesting…

Variety reported back in June that Universal Pictures, Imagine Entertainment and RUSH HOUR 3 director Brett Ratner finally received approval from Hugh Hefner on the script for a big-screen biography of the Playboy founder. (And, one hopes, there will be enough budgeted for location work so they can shoot scenes from Hef’s early years at his alma mater, the University of Illinois.) This announcement got me thinking. If someone greenlit a movie about Roger Ebert, who would be best suited to direct it?

Such an undertaking could flourish in the hands of a maverick like Overlooked Film Festival pal Werner Herzog, or younger agile-minded talents who might deconstruct the form akin to the Harvey Pekar “biopic” AMERICAN SPLENDOR, and I bet Ebert would be thrilled. Then again, maybe this is the most appropriate fella for the job, although the potential result would probably be just a little too borderline loopy for its own good.

Pitch me if you have a brilliant suggestion. I’d like to hear it.

~ Jason Pankoke

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