Dilemma: Gene Siskel, in his gravest I’m-a-serious-journalist tone, informs you that on his new special he and sidekick Roger Ebert will eschew ”the typical fluff interviews that you see on television.” Do you then go ahead and ask him, ”Have you guys ever hugged?” Well, yes. If you’re ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, you’re not afraid to ask the stupid questions. And so, as Siskel, 50, and Ebert, 54, mark their 20th anniversary as a team by quizzing Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep, and Brad Pitt for The Siskel & Ebert Interviews, we take this opportunity to grill them.
1. What’s it like running into someone whose movie you just panned?
Siskel: More often than not, they know that the stuff wasn’t very good. For example, at this year’s post-Oscar party, I ran into Liam Neeson, who basically apologized for being in the film Before and After.
2. Do you ever change each other’s opinions?
Siskel: I was far more enthusiastic about Babe than Roger was, and he’s come around. I was sort of on the fence about Broken Arrow, and when he made his comments, right then and there I turned my thumb down.
Ebert: I changed my mind on Unforgiven; I gave it only two-and-a-half stars [in the Chicago Sun-Times]. I wasn’t thinking very well when I reviewed that.
3. Are you tired of getting thumbs-up signs from strangers?
Ebert: As long as people don’t honk at me on the street. I hate that, because I always think they’re warning me that I’m going to be hit by a truck.
4. What’s your favorite movie of all time?
Ebert: Citizen Kane. I’ve seen it 75 times at least.
Siskel: It’s not one of my all-time favorite questions. That’s why Citizen Kane is such a great answer — it ends the discussion. Dr. Strangelove would be another. For my 50th birthday I got ahold of a new print of Saturday Night Fever. I see it much more as a tough coming-of-age movie than as a disco story.
5. Have you ever walked out of a movie?
Ebert: I’ve sat through every single movie I’ve seen — except Mediterraneo. And it won the Academy Award for best foreign film. But it’s utterly without redeeming merit. None.
Siskel: A couple of months ago I walked out of my first movie as a critic, Black Sheep. Can’t stand Chris Farley. Just rubs me the wrong way. I knew John Belushi, and he’s no John Belushi.
6. Movies aside, what do you disagree about the most?
Ebert: Personal work styles. Gene’s life is a running battle with the realities of time.
Siskel: Probably each other’s worth as a human being. We’re very hard on each other.
7. Ever feel chained together, like, say, Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones?
Siskel: Neither one of us is as good-looking as Poitier and Curtis, although sometimes our dialogue is as good as that film.
8. Do you watch TV?
Siskel: I watch the NBA and news. I haven’t seen any popular shows. Not one. The only thing that has my allegiance is The Larry Sanders Show.
Ebert: Sports, late-night talk shows, and Larry Sanders.