*At a New York screening of the new Roger Ebert documentary, “Life Itself,” Ebert’s widow, Chaz, got emotional multiple times, according to The Hollywood Reporter, and was unable to sit through the entire film, revealing that it’s still hard for her to watch.
She got choked up remembering her late husband and the process of making the documentary during a post-screening Q&A. But Chaz was also upset from the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, whom Roger so admired that he wanted the actor to play him if a fictional movie was ever made of his life.
Although Roger had revealed his casting choice several years ago, Chaz told The Hollywood Reporter Monday night that she was just discussing the possibility of Hoffman playing Ebert at Sundance, as both were there with separate films: Chaz with “Life Itself” and Hoffman with “A Most Wanted Man.”
“When we were at Sundance, I was talking to someone about that,” she said, “I didn’t see Phil at Sundance, but I was talking to someone, saying, ‘You know he’s here. I heard Roger would like [Hoffman] to play him in a movie, what do you think about that?’ We were just talking about that last week, so…”
Speaking at the Rooftop Films and Champagne Piper-Heidsieck event at New York City’s Paley Center, Chaz also noted that both she and Roger held Hoffman in high regard.
“Roger and I thought he was just terrific. We thought he was one of the best actors of any age,” she told THR. “He was just so versatile, and he was a brilliant, very smart human being.”
Chaz added of Hoffman’s death, believed to be due to a drug overdose, “It’s so, so sad, and addiction is a really, really difficult thing. I really have so much sympathy for his children and his partner and his mother, whom Roger knew and liked a lot.”
Sundance was the first time Chaz saw the completed documentary, and although it was an emotional experience, full of sobbing and laughter, she thinks that was the best way for her to experience the film in its entirety.
“I’m glad that I waited to see it at Sundance. It made it feel like Roger was there watching it with me, because I know that’s exactly what he would have done,” Chaz told THR. “He made so many discoveries at Sundance over the years that he just would’ve said, ‘Let’s just wait and see it with an audience on a big screen.'”
She added that the Sundance crowd was so supportive it kind of caught her off guard.
“Life Itself,” made during the final months of Roger’s life, provides a comprehensive look at the famous film critic, including vivid depictions of the medical difficulties that plagued him toward the end of his life.