The Archive is sad to report the passing of film critic Roger Ebert, who died today at the age of 70. Ebert announced yesterday that his cancer had returned and he would be scaling back from reviewing films. He’s best known for not only his newspaper (and later online) reviews, but also for TV shows Siskel & Ebert (alongside fellow critic Gene Siskel, who passed away in 1999), and Ebert & Roeper (with critic Richard Roeper). Ebert won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1975, penned an entertaining and often inspirational blog, and also authored several books including his 2011 autobiography “Life Itself.”
We were honored to interview Roger Ebert in 2005. Here are some selections from his ninety-minute interview:
On “Two Thumbs Up”:
On film criticism:
On Gene Siskel’s legacy:
I think that Gene and I created a format on television that had an influence on people that watched the show. The show has been on the air in one form or another for 30 years. I have talked to directors who are 40 years old who were watching the show when they were kids. What people got from the show, especially young viewers, were two ideas: movies are deserving to being taken seriously and it’s okay to disagree about them. Which is to say, “it’s okay to have an opinion about them.” And Gene always was very proud of the fact that he took his girls to see a movie once and they came out and he said,”well, girls how did you like it? And one of them said, “Daddy I didn’t like it.” And he said, “you just made me the proudest papa in the world.” Because you see, kids always say that everything is fine. How did you like it, “oh it was fine.” For at least some kids, watching our show, suddenly you would hear that in grade schools, they were doing Siskel and Ebert, where Jones and Smith would debate the new movies. The idea of having an opinion and disagreeing with somebody was interesting.
On winning the Pulitzer Prize for criticism:
I guess I was the first film critic to win for criticism. Two years earlier, Ron Powers, the television critic of the “Sun-Times” had won. Then there wasn’t another film critic who won for criticism for ages until about 2002, when Stephen Hunter of “The Washington Post” won. And then last year, Joe Morgenstern of “The Wall Street Journal” won.
On how he’d like to be remembered: