CHICAGO (AP) — Hollywood came to Chicago on Thursday as actors, directors, film critics and studio presidents honored late movie reviewer Roger Ebert in his hometown.
All of those who shared memories at the Chicago Theatre cheered Ebert as a champion of movies and a critic who used his influence to help filmmakers find audiences. He died last week at age 70 after a years-long battle with cancer.
"He was always supportive of artists. He always gave you a fair shake," said Chicago native John Cusack, who appeared with his sister and fellow actor, Joan Cusack.
Ebert worked at the Chicago Sun-Times for more than 40 years. The day before his April 4 death, he 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.
"He was simply one of the finest men I ever met," Chaz Ebert said of her late husband during Thursday night's memorial.
Roger Ebert 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.
John Cusack said he and his sister enjoyed watching Ebert and Siskel growing up. "Chicago's lost a great icon but he'll always be with us," he said of Ebert.
Joan Cusack read a letter from President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. The Obamas remembered Ebert as a "cultural leader."
Earlier, Todd McCarthy, a film critic who has written for publications such as Variety, said a key to Ebert's success was that he was "a populist without prejudice."