Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Must Read

April 4th, 2013 3:55 PM

Roger Ebert and 'Roger & Me'

Excerpted from Here Comes Trouble: Stories From My Life by Michael Moore

I had shown a cut of [Roger & Me] to three film festival selection committees — Telluride, Toronto, and New York. They all liked it and accepted it to be shown at each of their festivals in September 1989. I had also shown an early rough cut of the movie to my two sisters. They sat with me in our parents' home and watched it. They said nice things to me and encouraged me to keep working on it. What they didn't tell me (until years later) was that they were mortified about how poorly put together they thought the film was. They spoke quietly to one another — "What should we say to him? How can we let him down easy?" —but they couldn't find a way. They didn't want to burst my bubble as I seemed so excited about what the final film would look like. So they said nothing. But they did make a pact with each other to be there at the first film festival screening so that I wouldn't be alone in my moment of public humiliation.

The first festival turned out to be in Telluride, Colorado, over Labor Day weekend. The festival paid my way (as I was truly broke by then). Some of my crew got out there and back on the money they'd raise by hawking handmade silk-screened T-shirts and buttons of the movie's logo on the streets of Telluride.

The week before the festival I went into a panic that I had picked the wrong title for the film. I called up the festival organizer, Bill Pence, and told him that I was changing the name of the film to Bad Day in Buick City.

"No, you are not," he said quite forcefully into the phone. "The name of this film is the one you gave it — Roger & Me — and that's the perfect name. You're not changing it.

Besides, we already sent the program guide to the printer." I was bummed out but afraid to say anything else. I hung up the phone.

When I arrived in Telluride and was handed the program guide, I noticed something awful: the festival had decided to schedule my opening at the same time as their big opening night gala film, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover by the British director Peter Greenaway. The opening gala film would be held in the town's historic Opera House. My film would have its "world premiere" in Masons Hall down at the other end of town. Masons Hall! Was I supposed to feel good about this? Like, be thankful it's not the Kiwanis? Or, God forbid, the Elks Lodge? I tried to see all the positives in that. Well, I mean, after all, who was I? No one here knew me, I had never made a movie, and, let's be honest: it was a documentary! So I guess I understood why its opening was being buried. Oh well.

Before the Telluride Opening Night Gala, the town blocks off the main street and throws an opening night party for all the filmmakers and passholders to the festival. My sisters and their husbands and kids had driven all the way from San Diego — they were following through on their promise to each other to be there in Telluride to catch me when I fell. My crew and I showed up to the party early and availed ourselves of the free food (while selling more buttons and T-shirts). It was then that I spotted the film critic, Roger Ebert, who, along with his TV co-host Gene Siskel, were the most well-known film critics in the country. I decided to approach him and invite him to my movie.

"Hi," I said. "My name is Michael Moore. I'm from Flint, Michigan, and I have a film here in the festival. It's called Roger & Me. And I'd really love for you to see it!"

"I am going to see it — tomorrow at noon at the Nugget Theater," Ebert responded, as he reached for another hors d'oeuvre. I was impressed that he already knew about me!

"Well, it's going to have its world premiere tonight, in about an hour, at Masons Hall. I'd love for you to be there."

"Thank you, but I have tickets for the opening night gala at the Opera House."

"That's what I figured, but I think you should be at the very first screening of my movie. I think you'll really like it. And you can say you saw it here first!"

"Like I said, I have tickets to the opening. I've already spent something like eight hundred dollars for them."

"But Roger," I pleaded, using his first name as if we knew each other, something that he clearly didn't like. "I just know you will want to be at the premiere of this. You haven't seen anything like it. It's about the Midwest where we're both from. It —"

He cut me off.

"Listen," he said pointedly, "I said I would see it tomorrow and I will, and that is that. And now if you'll excuse me." And with that, he walked away from me, perturbed, annoyed, maybe even pissed: Who was this jerkoff from Flint bugging the shit out of me?

I felt like an idiot. Now, I'd be lucky if he even came tomorrow, let alone end up liking the movie. Why did I have to slide into that stalker voice? Oh, the desperation that was painted like a billboard across my face!

One of my buddies who worked on the film, Rod Birleson, tried to console me. "Don't worry, Mike. He said he'd come tomorrow and he will. He probably appreciated your enthusiasm."

"Yeah," I said. "The enthusiasm of a serial killer."

The street party was drawing to a close, and the well-heeled were heading into the Opera House for the gala. The rest of us wandered down to the end of Main Street, to where the Order of Masons meet, to unspool our masterpiece.

Remarkably, when we got to the "theater," even though we were put up against the opening night film, the place was packed.

About five minutes before showtime, I looked out the window of the hall and saw a lone figure, a stout man, waddling down the street toward Masons Hall. It was none other than Roger Ebert. He walked in the door and saw his stalker standing there.

"Don't say a word," he ordered, putting his hand up and averting his eyes from mine. "I'm here. That's all that needs to be said."

"But —" I said, disobeying him — and being cut off by him in the same instant.

"I'm only here because there was this strange look in your eyes, a look that told me maybe I better be there. So here I am." He went into the theater and took the last available seat, three rows from the back. No pressure now.

I went in and took my seat in the last row. My sisters had positioned themselves on each side of my seat so they could both sit directly next to me, to comfort me in their role as the good sisters that they were (and are), to be there for me in my moment of impending embarrassment and failure. The lights in Masons Hall began to dim, and as the theater went dark, Anne and Veronica each grabbed a hand of mine and held it tightly. All would be well, no matter what.

At that moment, the music began and the title of the film appeared on the screen...

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

George W. Bush Debuts New Paintings Of Dogs, Friends, Ghost Of Iraqi Child That Follows Him... www.theonion.com President Bush has a new hobby -- painting! --...

Apr 17th
7:28 PM
Read More

Big new story from David Sirota and Pando on top Christie adviser and appearance of corruption at New Jersey's pension fund: REVEALED: Gov....

Apr 17th
12:41 PM
Read More

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States www.theonion.com WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract pando.com As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors pando.com If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa ...by Nick Turse www.michaelmoore.com Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 www.theguardian.com Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? www.huffingtonpost.com I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | RootsAction.org act.rootsaction.org The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Enron billionaire John Arnold thinks everyone should believe him when he says we've got to cut pensions because he's so incredibly rich: John...

Mar 5th
4:20 PM
Read More

More in David Sirota's continuing series on the billionaire takeover of PBS: More PBS conflict woes as activists move to eject David Koch from board of...

Mar 3rd
12:35 PM
Read More

Ukraine: One ‘Regime Change’ Too Many? ...by Ray McGovern www.michaelmoore.com Is “regime change” in Ukraine the bridge too far for the neoconservative...

Mar 2nd
9:25 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles