February 16, 2010 / 7:22 PM / in 8 years

Roger Ebert calls himself "happy" despite surgeries

<p>Actor, director and Sundance Film Festival founder Robert Redford (R) smiles next to film critic Roger Ebert following a news conference on the first day of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 21, 2010.Lucas Jackson</p>

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Film critic Roger Ebert has opened a window on his life since losing his ability to speak four years ago, telling Esquire magazine he communicates through Post-it notes but there is "no need to pity" him.

The magazine also shows a new photo of Ebert revealing the effects of drastic reconstructive surgeries on his jaw since his diagnosis with thyroid cancer in 2002.

Ebert, one of America's most influential film critics, writes for the Chicago Sun-Times. But he is best known for reviewing movies on TV, creating the trademark "two thumbs up" with late film critic Gene Siskel until Ebert lost the ability to speak in 2006.

Since then, he has continued to write, reviewing films, keeping an online journal and publishing books. He communicates with friends and family using Post-it notes and a computer program that turns text into speech.

During his interview with Esquire, Ebert wrote on a piece of paper, "There is no need to pity me...Look how happy I am."

To show that he is laughing, he closes his eyes and slaps both hands on his knees, according to Esquire.

Ebert told Esquire that in his dreams he can talk. "Never yet a dream where I can't talk," he wrote in a Post-it.

He also told the magazine that he misses Gene Siskel, his late movie reviewing partner on the television show "Siskel & Ebert," who died of brain cancer in 1999.

After Siskel's death, Ebert appeared on TV alongside critic Richard Roeper.

Since the surgeries on his jaw, Ebert's mouth is shaped into a permanent smile. He told Esquire that the surgeries were so difficult that he refuses to go under the knife any more.

Ebert, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his film criticism, has a forthcoming book titled "Great Movies III" and a collection of recipes called "The Pot and How to Use It" that will also come out this year.

Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Jill Serjeant

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