Roger Ebert was often considered the most famous film critic of his generation. Now filmmaker Steve James has produced a documentary about his life and death called Life Itself.
In 2002, Ebert was diagnosed with cancer. Four years later, he had surgery to remove part of his lower jaw. It left him unable to eat, drink or speak. For the rest of his life, he was fed through a tube.
In late 2012, James asked Ebert to let make him a documentary with Ebert’s participation. Ebert agreed. Almost immediately, the cancer returned, and Ebert was hospitalized. He died four months later. But during those final months, he allowed James to film him in the hospital. And all of a sudden, James was capturing a different story — a story about looking back on an incredible career
Today we speak to Steve James and Ebert’s wife Chaz about Roger and his legacy. Chaz tells us about what discussing films was like during their marriage:
Chaz Ebert: When we disagreed about films, Roger loved it. Because no, I’m not a shy and retiring type, of course I pushed back, and he loved that, too. The thing that I also loved about him is he respected my opinions about the movies and he did listen to me…
Sometimes I would not discuss a movie with him that we both had seen until after he had written his review because I didn’t want to influence what he said or influence his thinking about a movie… The thing that I miss now is that I did not realize how much we actually agreed on movies. In this last year I’ve missed him so much. [I’ve] missed discussing movies with him. I didn’t realize that I had almost taken for granted having access to this brilliant mind and I miss that.
Photo: Roger Ebert writing in his office. By Kevin Horan via Kartemquin