Film Critic Roger Ebert Taking a Leave as Cancer Returns

Image: Film Critic Roger Ebert Taking a Leave as Cancer Returns

Wednesday, 03 Apr 2013 11:46 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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Legendary Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert announced Tuesday that he is taking a "leave of presence" from some of his duties because the cancer he's been fighting for more than a decade has returned.

On Tuesday, the eve of his 46th anniversary as the Sun-Times' critic, Ebert, 70, revealed on his blog that the hip fracture he suffered in December turned out to be a cancer. He will undergo radiation treatments but must, as a result, take a "leave of presence" from his critic responsibilities.

"What in the world is a leave of presence? It means I am not going away," Ebert wrote. "My intent is to continue to write selected reviews but to leave the rest to a talented team of writers handpicked 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."

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Ebert penned 306 movie reviews last year, the most he's ever done. Now, he will have to scale back the day-to-day grind in favor of focusing on his health. Slowing down on his Sun-Times reviews will, however, free Ebert up to write about other things that interest him.

"It really stinks that the cancer has returned and that I have spent too many days in the hospital. So on bad days I may write about the vulnerability that accompanies illness," he wrote on his blog. "On good days, I may wax ecstatic about a movie so good it transports me beyond illness."

Ebert also announced some other projects in the works. He's designing a new and improved Rogerebert.com, preparing to launch Ebert Digital, and gearing up for the upcoming Ebertfest, his annual film festival.

The famed critic is also starting a fundraising effort on Kickstarter in an effort to bring back the TV show "At the Movies."

Ebert was diagnosed in 2002 with papillary thyroid cancer, and in 2003 was operated on for cancer in his salivary gland. Further surgeries to remove more cancerous tissue required the removal of a section of his jawbone, and he continued to suffer complications over the next few years. After fracturing his hip last December, he underwent further surgery.

The blog posting received an outpouring of supportive comments from Ebert's fans.

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"It's hard for me to fathom that you have been a part of my life since childhood, since 'Sneak Previews,' 'At The Movies,' etc.," wrote Sean Lyons. "But it's your writing that I really love. Whether it's a movie review or life essay, it's some of the most human writing I've ever read."

Related stories:

Roger Ebert Cannot Speak, but Still Communicates

Roger Ebert Gets 'Voice' Grandkids Can Recognize

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