Roger Ebert Explains Screening Scuffle

  • Roger Ebert
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  • Roger Ebert, in 1975
  • Marisa Tomei and Roger Ebert
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  • Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert
  • Roger Ebert and wife Chaz
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09/12/2008 AT 09:00 AM EDT

On-screen violence is one thing. But Roger Ebert was given a real-life thrashing earlier this month while watching Slumlord Millionaire at the Toronto Film Festival, it's now being revealed.

In his most recent column, the veteran film critic explains that the alleged altercation (first reported Thursday in New York's Daily News) erupted during a screening of the movie, which contains subtitles.

Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Ebert says the man in front of him was leaning out into the aisle, obstructing the view.

After battling thyroid and salivary gland cancer, Ebert, 66, can no longer speak. So, he explained, he simply tapped the man – a critic for a New York newspaper.

After repeated attempts to get the man's attention, the fellow turned around and "whacked me with a rolled-up program or a festival binder or something," Ebert wrote.

Theater staff intervened, and the man was escorted to a different seat.

The slaphappy critic is lucky Ebert's devoted wife, Chaz, wasn't in the audience. When told of the incident she jokingly informed her husband, "I'll get a no-neck guy from the West Side to break his knees."

So far, there's been no comment in the Post.

Ebert, for his part, insisted the incident was no big deal. "I am plenty hearty enough to withstand a smack," he wrote. Two thumbs up!

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