Gene Siskel Interview
Siskel & Ebert

"Spy" Magazine has called him America's most powerful movie reviewer. His partner Roger Ebert was right behind him.

Of course by now, you know we're talking about Gene Siskel.

Each week millions of t.v. viewers tune in to see what the team of Siskel and Ebert have to say about the latest movie releases from Hollywood.

Gene Siskel talked with us about his job, the movies, the show, and his partner Roger Ebert.

Q. When did you know you wanted to be a film critic?
A. I can tell you exactly when because I had just joined my newspaper in January of 1969. I had a couple of pro­motions, starting as a neighborhood news reporter, then a columnist in the neighborhood news section, than a fea­ture writer. When I was doing feature writing, and these promotions are coming every six weeks or so, I began to do some extra articles to supplement the movie coverage, just like today a movie critic can't do all the interviews, as well as the reviews. I did a few of the interviews. That would require me to go to the picture, obviously consider it seri­ously and think about the actor or director I would be talk­ing with, and framing the questions. Well, I loved doing that. It was fun. It was a continuation of my enthusiasm for movies in college. I was just out of college, a year and a half out of college, at that point. I heard that the movie critic would be leaving the paper 'cause he won a fellow­ship at Harvard and I threw my hat into the ring to re­place him, even though I was just at the paper a few months. They liked what I did and gave me a shot, and asked me to stay on. They had offered me other jobs along the way, coming in as editor or columnist of some kind and I turned them all down. I liked this movie stuff, and that's 25 years ago. My first t.v. job came about 20 years ago when I was asked by the C.B.S. station in Chicago if I would review films and cover the movie beat for them. Then a year later, I was asked to do the show with Roger for the P.B.S. station in Chicago. Then it became national I think, in 1978.

Q. Why do you think "Siskel and Ebert" has gained such popularity?
A. I think part of it has to be the format, which I think is interesting to people. You know, normally when you see one critic talking, you might think well, what does he know? Or, what does she know? Here you've got somebody asking that question right for you. Second, I think we're good journalists. I think we're good critics. I think we have a journalistic attitude of trying to get to the truth as we see it. We speak the same language. That allows us to communicate. We know exactly what we're talking about. There's never a what do you mean by that kind of thing. We do speak the newspaper reporter’s language. We have an ability to speak concisely I guess, and in the way that people who love movies talk. We've thought about the pic­tures, we've covered the beat for 27 years in Roger's case, 25 in mine. We've seen this world evolve. I think we pro­vide a real service to people. I would watch the show if I were a movie lover and trying to decide what to go see, and with a limited amount of time or perhaps money. I would enjoy it. What did they see? What should I see? What did they see in what they saw? That kind of stuff. I would watch the show definitely.

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