Roger Ebert Is Esquire’s Essential Man

Movie critic lost his voice to cancer but he remains the most amazing man in the industry

By on 17 Feb 2010, 15:00 GMT
Movie critic Roger Ebert became famous for the unique way he had of telling movie directors and actors that they would be better off doing something else, whether in books, television shows or in the reviews he wrote for several major publications. It’s been almost four years since Ebert has not been able to speak, eat or drink, he’s rarely seen anymore and almost never talks to the media, but, ironically enough, he’s more communicative than ever.

The latest issue of Esquire magazine features a lengthy piece on the Pulitzer-winning movie critic who literally made history with his reviews and ongoing activity, including an interview with him. Though Ebert has not spoken a word in so many years, he still communicates with ease even when he doesn’t have his reliable laptop in front of him and he’s not typing like mad, giving the world a piece of his mind on the latest (more or less hyped) productions that dropped in theaters.

Ebert has developed his own sign language, which is a combination of drawing the shape of letters in the palm of his hand and gestures. He also uses the traditional pen and paper, and a piece of software that mimics the human voice. He can’t remember the last time he ate (or what it was), he can barely sit upright, cannot drink and is so thin that he has to wear his wedding ring on his middle finger, but he remains one of the driving forces in the movie industry, a man whom the entire world listens to when he speaks, Esquire says. He might have lost the ability to speak when doctors removed his jaw, but his words have never ceased to shape the public opinion.

“Now his hands do the talking. They are delicate, long-fingered, wrapped in skin as thin and translucent as silk. He wears his wedding ring on the middle finger of his left hand; he’s lost so much weight since he and Chaz were married in 1992 that it won’t stay where it belongs, especially now that his hands are so busy. There is almost always a pen in one and a spiral notebook or a pad of Post-it notes in the other – unless he’s at home, in which case his fingers are feverishly banging the keys of his MacBook Pro,” Esquire writes.

Roger Ebert still has the time and energy to see new film releases and then offer the public an objective take on the experience. Of course, there are days when he can’t do more than one viewing, but somehow he still manages to keep up-to-date with everything and catch the hottest arrivals in theaters, whether they be “New Moon” or the more recent “Still Bill,” which is still pending an MPAA rating.

Ebert is the essential man, a man of words that lives through and is tormented by them because there are more of them than he can write, Esquire says. “Ebert’s dreams are happier. Never yet a dream where I can’t talk, he writes on another Post-it note, peeling it off the top of the blue stack. Sometimes I discover – oh, I see! I CAN talk! I just forget to do it. In his dreams, his voice has never left. In his dreams, he can get out everything he didn’t get out during his waking hours: the thoughts that get trapped in paperless corners, the jokes he wanted to tell, the nuanced stories he can’t quite relate. In his dreams, he yells and chatters and whispers and exclaims. In his dreams, he’s never had cancer. In his dreams, he is whole,” the Esquire piece says. 

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Film critic Roger Ebert is the essential man of the latest issue of Esquire magazine
   Film critic Roger Ebert is the essential man of the latest issue of Esquire magazine