Movie Talk

Ben Affleck’s Last Visit With Roger Ebert: ‘I Was So Moved’

Movie Talk

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Ben Affleck, left, and the late Roger Ebert

Ben Affleck, left, and the late Roger Ebert (Photo: Getty Images)

Roger Ebert's final review was published over the weekend just a few days after his death. The late film critic wrote about the Terrence Malick film "To the Wonder," about a couple whose relationship is affected by their new surroundings in a remote Oklahoma town.

It stars Ben Affleck. And the review about it was Ebert's final thumbs-up.

During the film's premiere on Tuesday in Los Angeles, Affleck acknowledged that he had read Ebert's review. "I thought it was lovely," he told USA Today.

Affleck went on to tell a story about his last visit with the late critic. "I went and visited Roger last summer and talked about 'Argo.' I was in his home, and met his wife and saw how tough [conditions] were after his surgery. I was so moved by the cheerfulness that he had toward this, the sort of way that he bore that burden. I mean, for days after I left -- he gave me a copy of his book and I read it, I just was so inspired by that. By a guy who was fighting something that was really debilitating, and was so gracious and warm and loved life."

[Related: Films Roger Ebert Championed and His Surprising Pans]

The 40-year-old director-actor, who won a best-picture Oscar for the very film he discussed with Ebert over the summer, revealed that the critic's passing was tough for him to learn about. "It just broke my heart to hear that he died," he said.

But Affleck also relayed his pride to have been included in Ebert's final piece of work. "And the fact that he wrote his last review of 'To the Wonder'; it was viewed through the prism of this wonderful man who was at the very end of his life. And to see the movie through that lens was one of the most powerful things to ever happen to me in my career."

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Affleck, right, and Olga Kurylenko in 'To the Wonder'

Affleck, right, and Olga Kurylenko in 'To the Wonder' (Photo: Magnolia Pictures)

In the film review, Ebert noted that "Although it uses dialogue, it's dreamy and half-heard, and essentially this could be a silent film." He spoke of Affleck's performance, saying, "Ben Affleck here isn't the star of 'Argo' but a man, often silent, intoxicated by love and then by loss." Ebert seemed to understand and appreciate Malick's unique voice. "A more conventional film would have assigned a plot to these characters and made their motivations more clear. Malick, who is surely one of the most romantic and spiritual of filmmakers, appears almost naked here before his audience, a man not able to conceal the depth of his vision."

Another filmmaker also recently discussed a poignant visit with Ebert. But their relationship was a bit pricklier. Ebert famously slammed Alan Zweibel's 1994 film "North," starring Elijah Wood and Bruce Willis. "I hated this movie. Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this movie. Hated it," the late critic wrote. Zweibel was heartbroken over the pan. But more than a decade later, he had the chance to share a joke with Ebert -- whom he ran into in a Chicago restaurant. He told the late critic that he disliked his sweater, saying, "I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate that sweater." They both smiled, then laughed, then shook hands.

"To the Wonder," also starring Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem, enters theaters, in limited release, this Friday. (And "North" is available on Amazon.)

Watch 'To the Wonder' Theatrical Trailer:

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