Cusack, Tucker to attend Chicago service for Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert seen working in his office at the WTTW-TV studios in Chicago in 2011.
Roger Ebert seen working in his office at the WTTW-TV studios in Chicago in 2011.

CHICAGO — Hollywood planned to come to Chicago late today as actors, directors, film critics and studio presidents were to honor late movie reviewer Roger Ebert in his hometown.

Actors John Cusack and Chris Tucker were to speak at the event, called “Roger Ebert: A Celebration of Life,” along with Ebert’s widow Chaz Ebert and other friends and family. The memorial was to be at the Chicago Theatre, where Ebert screened movies for many years.

The acclaimed critic died April 4 at age 70 after a years-long battle with cancer. The day before his death, Ebert wrote in a post on his blog that he was taking a break from his schedule of almost-daily movie reviewing because the cancer had recurred.

Ebert worked at the Chicago Sun-Times for more than 40 years. He won national fame when he teamed with fellow film critic Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune in 1975 for a television show that had them each give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down rating to the latest releases.

Ebert continued the show with Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper after Siskel’s death in 1999. Both Roeper and Siskel’s widow, Marlene Iglitzen Siskel, were to attend today's memorial at the Chicago Theatre. In 2005 the city unveiled a sidewalk medallion under the ornate marquee of the historic theater as a tribute to Ebert.

Tributes for Ebert after his death included ones from President Barack Obama and Oscar-winning directors Robert Redford and Steven Spielberg. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke at Ebert’s funeral on Monday.

Ebert also will be honored next week at Ebertfest, his annual film festival in Champaign.

Ebert was the first journalist to win the Pulitzer Prize for movie criticism and was the first critic to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

He earned respect for championing small independent movies that he scouted out at film festivals while at the same time taking Hollywood’s biggest names to task when they missed the mark.