Obama, Scorsese, Winfrey lead tributes to Roger Ebert
05:00 AM, Apr 04, 2013
President Obama led a chorus of voices paying tribute to legendary film critic Roger Ebert, who died Thursday at the age of 70 after a prolonged battle with cancer.
The fellow Chicagoan and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer “was the movies,” Obama said. “The movies won’t be the same without Roger, and our thoughts and prayers are with (Ebert’s wife) Chaz and the rest of the Ebert family,” Obama said.
Director Martin Scorsese, who is executive-producing a documentary on Ebert, called the passing “an incalculable loss for movie culture and for film criticism. And it’s a loss for me personally.”
The statement continued: “Roger was always supportive, he was always right there for me when I needed it most, when it really counted at the very beginning, when every word of encouragement was precious; and then again, when I was at the lowest ebb of my career, there he was, just as encouraging, just as warmly supportive. … Really, Roger was my friend. It’s that simple. Few people I’ve known in my life loved or cared as much about movies.
“We all knew that this moment was coming, but that doesn’t make the loss any less wrenching. I’ll miss him my dear friend.”
Director and actor Mel Gibson, in a statement, called Ebert “a gentle soul (who) will be missed greatly.
“I never thought of Roger solely as a film critic but more as a film historian and lover of the art,” Gibson said. “I sought out his opinions and thoughts often and he was always extremely generous with his time.”
Chicago-born actor Joe Mantegna recalled in an interview coming up as an actor in the Windy City and seeing Roger Ebert at neighborhood establishments such as the Old Town Ale House.
“He was this writer just out of the University of Illinois, and I was a drama school student. I progressed as an actor, he progressed as a writer. And then he was writing about the movies I was doing,” Mantegna said. “I ended up going to see his star ceremony in Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. We were thrilled to see this local boy going on to worldwide success. Sometimes there’s an adversarial relationship with critics. But because we were from Chicago, it transcended that. He was a hometown guy.”
He said Ebert carried tremendous influence with his reviews. And he was fair, “never malicious” about the negative reviews. “He never got out the hammer and pounded you like some critics do,” said Mantegna. “He exemplified Chicago in such a good way. His career speaks for itself. God bless him, he left a mark.”
Other stars took to Twitter to pay respects. Oprah Winfrey made reference to the 1999 passing of Gene Siskel, Ebert’s cohort on Sneak Previews and the later Siskel & Ebert at the Movies. “Roger and Gene together again. End of an era,” Winfrey tweeted.
Actor Steve Martin tweeted about the faux movie balcony section from which Siskel and Ebert used to shoot the show: “Goodbye Mr. Ebert. We had fun. The balcony is closed.”
Steve Carell, who performed at Chicago’s Second City, tweeted: “Thanks Mr. Ebert.”
Screenwriter Diablo Cody: “R.I.P. Roger Ebert. It was a privilege to interact with you. Thank you for your support, the criticism, and the true love for the movies.”
Director Jason Reitman tweeted that the death was a “profound loss for anyone who ever loved going to the movies. My heart goes out to Chaz and the city of Chicago. Just heartbroken.”
Fellow Chicagoan Jim Belushi said, “There has never been a film critic who, upon walking into a movie theater, got more excited when the lights came down than Roger Ebert. He loved the magic of movies. His love of film was a constant inspiration for filmmakers, actors, writers, and fans. What a great Chicago guy. Come on, the best!”
And the city’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, in a statement, said Ebert’s “name was synonymous with two things: the movies and Chicago. In a Pulitzer Prize winning career that spanned more than four decades, thousands of reviews and countless acts of generosity to others, Roger championed Chicago as a center for filmmaking and critiques. With a knowledge of his subject as deep as his love for his wife Chaz, Roger Ebert will be remembered for the strength of his work, respected for his courage in the face of illness, and revered for his contribution to filmmaking and to our city.
“The final reel of his life may have run through to the end, but his memory will never fade.”