Roger Ebert Was Open About His Illness Until The End

Legendary film critic Roger Ebert died Thursday at the age of 70. Melissa Block interviewed Ebert in 2011 — this is a partial rebroadcast of that conversation.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Our colleague Melissa Block interviewed Roger Ebert at his Chicago townhouse in 2011 when his memoir was released. By then, Ebert had lost his ability to speak. He used a text-to-speech program on his computer to communicate.

Melissa asked Roger Ebert about his longtime television partner, Gene Siskel's decline and eventual death from a brain tumor. It was an illness Siskel never talked about.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)

ROGER EBERT: I was never able to visit him in the hospital. He was intensely private about the situation. That was his decision. I respect it. I think, perhaps, it influenced me to be very open about my own illness.

SIEGEL: Again, that's Ebert using his computer to speak.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And Ebert was open. He took to Twitter and his blog to share not just his thoughts about movies but also deeply personal stories about his cancer and his failed reconstructive surgeries. He even posted a photograph of his disfigured face.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED AUDIO)

EBERT: I was advised not to be photographed looking like this. Well, it's how I look, and there's nothing I can do about it. We spend too much time as a society denying illness. It's a fact of life.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Doctors have proposed to you a fourth reconstructive surgery. You're shaking your head no. You have said no. Why is that? Why have you said enough?

EBERT: I'm going to stop while I'm behind.

SIEGEL: On Tuesday, Roger Ebert used his blog to announce a reduced workload, what he called a leave of presence. He said his cancer had returned and he was undergoing radiation treatment.

CORNISH: Roger Ebert died today. He was 70 years old.

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SIEGEL: This is NPR News.

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