Pulitzer Prize-winning American film critic Roger Ebert (pictured) has passed away at the age of 70, after a long battle with cancer.
Ebert’s passing was announced today (April 4) by the Chicago Sun-Times, the newspaper which he had worked with since 1967. In addition to being one of America’s preeminent film critics – and perhaps its most high-profile – he was also a pioneer who helped bring film criticism to television, when he and Gene Siskel launched the show Sneak Previews in 1975.
The series would go on to earn seven Emmy nominations. 1975 was also the year Ebert won his Pulitzer Prize – becoming the first person to do so for film criticism – for Sun-Times reviews published the year prior.
More recently, Ebert had been selected by the Sundance Institute to become the second recipient of its Vanguard Leadership Award. He was due to receive the award at a presentation on June 5 in Los Angeles later this year.
Ebert had also been working with documentarian Steve James, Chicago production company Kartemquin Films, and exec producer Martin Scorsese for a documentary about his life based upon his memoir Life Itself.
CNN Films, the feature doc arm of news giant CNN Worldwide, acquired U.S. broadcast rights to the doc – which is being produced by Kartemquin with Steve Zaillian and Garrett Basch’s Film Rites – at Sundance earlier this year.
Ebert’s passing came after he wrote on his own blog earlier this week that he would be taking a “leave of presence” from film criticism owing to his health problems.
In the post, he wrote: “I am not going away. My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers hand-picked and greatly admired by me. What’s more, I’ll be able at last to do what I’ve always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review.”
He added: “However you came to know me, I’m glad you did and thank you for being the best readers any film critic could ask for.”
Among the many paying tribute to Ebert was U.S. president Barack Obama, who said in a statement that “for a generation of Americans – and especially Chicagoans – Roger was the movies.”
Obama added: “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.”
Ebert is survived by his wife, his step-daughter and two step-grandchildren.
UPDATE APRIL 5, 2013: Director Steve James is vowing to continue with his documentary on Roger Ebert. The filmmaker Tweeted: “We are devastated. But we will continue. We will finish the film.”