While glancing at a Chicago newspaper’s calendar of events, I noticed that in just two days Roger Ebert would be signing his new book Life Itself at a local Barnes and Noble. We planned to arrive early that evening, expecting a crowd. I didn’t know whether Roger would allow pictures or drawings of him, so while waiting, I began sketching two comfy chairs, one of which was to be occupied by Roger. Before he and his wife Chaz arrived, promptly on time, I’d also had time to add the backdrop to my drawing. We all quickly felt a distinct part of the experience, as Roger walked straight up the queue of his fans, stopping to shake each one’s hand. He also took a moment to look directly at each person’s eyes, as if to etch their face into his memory, or perhaps simply to acknowledge everyone individually. It was a touching experience. Someone in the crowd asked if photographs of Roger were allowed, and Chaz, who was also there to help, replied in the affirmative. After he signed my book, I stood back a bit and sketched Roger as he continued to sign books. What an amazing person he is.
**UPDATE September 10, 2012**
Roger Ebert will have a documentary made about his life, based on his book, Life Itself, with Martin Scorsese producing the film. Scorsese has optioned Ebert’s book, Life Itself and Hoop Dreams’ Steve James will direct.
“When I first learned they were interested, the news came out of a clear blue sky,” Ebert wrote in an e-mail. “I once wrote a blog about Steve James’ “˜Hoop Dreams,” calling it the “The Great American Documentary.” His “˜The Interrupters,” about volunteers trying to stop street violence in Chicago, is urgent and brave. Now to think of him interested in my memoir is awesome. Zaillian and Scorsese are also brilliant filmmakers. I couldn’t be happier, especially since I never thought of “˜Life Itself” as a film.
**UPDATE April 4, 2013**
Roger Ebert passed away today. He will be missed.