The chances are good that if you know anything about the film critic Roger Ebert, then you know him as the opinionated host of “At The Movies,” a show he hosted for years and years with the late Gene Siskel.
But what you may not know is that a bout with cancer a few years back cost Ebert, the veteran film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times part of his jawbone, leaving him unable to speak, eat or drink. A tragedy like that would be enough to crush a lesser man.
But Ebert is still going strong and he’s found a new voice as a blogger and writer. His productivity has skyrocketed and he now Tweets and blogs madly. In an excerpt from his new book “Life Itself” (courtesy of The Guardian), the critic says he’s “happy I don’t look worse.” He also discusses how he’s changed his approach to doing his job.
“Losing the ability to speak ended my freedom to interview. There are new stars and directors coming up now whom I will never get to know that way. Tilda Swinton, Sofia Coppola, Ellen Page, David Fincher, Colin Firth, Jennifer Lawrence. I’ve never even had a proper conversation with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Edward Norton, Darren Aronofsky, Catherine Keener or George Clooney. I tried a few interviews using the voice in my computer while tape-recording the answers. I got some good answers, but you couldn’t call these conversations.
I’ve felt better about another approach: I ask prepared questions and take digital video of the response, finding that being on camera inspires more conversational frankness. During those interviews, I pause to type up follow-through questions. All the same, my last real interview was at Cannes in May 2006, when I talked with William Friedkin, Tracy Letts and Michael Shannon, the director, writer and star of Bug. That was a movie I was eager to discuss. Now that is all in the past.”
Read the full piece here.