Roger Ebert Reveals Cancer Recurrence, Announces Work Downshift

Roger Ebert

Siskel and Ebert came up with their signature "thumbs-up/thumbs-down" appraisals; two thumbs-up (and later two big thumbs-up) was as good as a movie could get.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic wrote on his blog that a "painful fracture" that has inhibited his walking actually is cancer, and he will be scaling back his daily duties.

Roger Ebert's life story has taken another major twist.

The storied film critic -- the subject of an in-progress biopic from Steve James, Martin Scorsese and Steve Zallian -- announced Tuesday night that he will take a "leave of presence" from his job at the Chicago Sun-Times due to a recurrence of cancer.

"It is being treated with radiation, which has made it impossible for me to attend as many movies as I used to," the 70-year-old wrote on his blog. "I have been watching more of them on screener copies that the studios have been kind enough to send to me."

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Ebert was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002, a cancerous growth in his salivary glands in 2003 and, ultimately, had his lower jaw removed in 2006 as a result of his struggles with the disease. His current bout of cancer originally was thought to be a fracture in his leg, which had made it difficult to walk and required hospitalizations. In December, he told followers that he "not in the best of shape."

"At this point in my life, in addition to writing about movies, I may write about what it's like to cope with health challenges and the limitations they can force upon you," he wrote. "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. On good days, I may wax ecstatic about a movie so good it transports me beyond illness."

The critic, who has developed a massive online following through his site and Twitter in the past several years, said he will continue to review some films and will push on with his digital initiatives.

Those digital projects include relaunching, which will house the more than 10,000 reviews he's written, dating back to 1967; working with other critics to pick up slack on reviewing films, as well as provide a wider range of indie and foreign film reviews; developing a mobile application; and continuing to cooperate with the biopic, which is based on his 2011 memoir.