Acclaimed film critic Roger Ebert has written many words of praise over the years for celebrated, prolific filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Harvey Weinstein. Now, following the news of Ebert’s death on Thursday, these three filmmakers have their own words of admiration for Ebert.
Spielberg — whom Ebert praised for his enduring “talent and flexibility” in an ever-changing industry — said in a statement that the Chicago Sun-Times critic “wrote with passion through a real knowledge of film and film history.” Read his full statement below, which also highlights the success of the multiple television programs Ebert hosted for 23 years (including At the Movies, which Ebert co-hosted with Gene Siskel, who is pictured above):
“Roger loved movies. They were his life. His reviews went far deeper than simply thumbs up or thumbs down. He wrote with passion through a real knowledge of film and film history, and in doing so, helped many movies find their audiences. Along with Gene Shalit, Joel Siegel, and of course Gene Siskel, Roger put television criticism on the map. Roger’s passing is virtually the end of an era and now the balcony is closed forever.”
The first film review of one of his own films that Scorsese ever read was written by Ebert, for Scorsese’s first feature, 1967’s I Call First (later renamed Who’s That Knocking at My Door). That began for Ebert a longtime appreciation for Scorsese’s work; in 2008 he published a book about Scorsese’s films. The Taxi Driver director’s remarks about Ebert reflect on his personal relationship with the critic. Read Scorsese’s full statement below:
“The death of Roger Ebert is an incalculable loss for movie culture and for film criticism. And it’s a loss for me personally. 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. There was a professional distance between us, but then I could talk to him much more freely than I could to other critics. Really, Roger was my friend. It’s that simple.
Few people I’ve known in my life loved or cared as much about movies. I know that’s what kept him going in those last years – his life-or-death passion for movies, and his wonderful wife, Chaz.
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, Roger Ebert.”
Harvey Weinstein (co-founder of The Weinstein Company, whose films are a perennial favorite during awards season) has spoken out on some of the same film industry-related issues as Ebert, including the MPAA’s controversial decision to give Bully, a documentary produced by TWC, an R rating. (Ebert wrote about the issue for the Chicago Sun-Times last year.) Here is Weinstein’s statement about Ebert:
“Roger Ebert was a passionate critic who understood that he needed to not only appraise films but be a champion of cinema. He was always on the side of movies that needed that extra push. The only thing that tops him as a writer was his kindness as a human being. I will miss Roger very much and my heart goes out to Chaz and the entire family.”
UPDATE, 8:07 p.m. ET: President Barack Obama has also released a statement about Ebert’s death on the official White House website:
“Michelle and I are saddened to hear about the passing of Roger Ebert. For a generation of Americans — and especially Chicagoans — Roger was the movies. When he didn’t like a film, he was honest; when he did, he was effusive — capturing the unique power of the movies to take us somewhere magical. Even amidst his own battles with cancer, Roger was as productive as he was resilient — continuing to share his passion and perspective with the world. The movies won’t be the same without Roger, and our thoughts and prayers are with Chaz and the rest of the Ebert family.”
And Directors Guild of America president Taylor Hackford released the following statement on the DGA’s website:
“From the mightiest blockbuster to the smallest independent film, Roger Ebert devoted his career to sharing his love of film with generations of moviegoers. The role of critics is to call them as they see them and Roger did so with integrity. In more than four decades of honest review of our films, Roger demanded excellence – but recognized our directorial achievements. For his dedication and service to the craft, in 2009, the DGA awarded him our Honorary Life Member Award. He will be deeply missed.”
For more about the life and career of Roger Ebert, read EW’s obituary about the lauded film critic here.