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The Surprisingly Tender Story of An Actor’s Kindness to the Critic Who Hated Hated Hated Hated His Movie

posted by Nell Minow

Chaz Ebert wrote to Rob Schneider to ask him about a story that was mentioned in many of the tributes to her late husband, Roger Ebert.  Roger loathed Schneider’s movie “Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo.”  He memorably wrote that the film “is aggressively bad, as if it wants to cause suffering to the audience. The best thing about it is that it runs for only 75 minutes…..Speaking in my official capacity as a Pulitzer Prize winner, Mr. Schneider, your movie sucks.”  That last comment inspired the title of one of Ebert’s collections of bad reviews.

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Chaz asked Schneider some questions, including:  “When Roger was in the hospital you sent a beautiful selection of flowers with a sweet note. That melted our hearts. Roger talked about that for a long time. Not just the flowers, but the very act, and what one act of kindness can do to transform human relationships. He said it gave him a glimpse into what kind of person you were and it was humbling. What was your thinking behind sending the flowers and the get well wishes?”

Schneider’s response was thoughtful, personal, and very moving.  He said that Ebert’s review was “mean but fair.”  And that it made him reconsider some of his choices. ” [A]s a Zen Buddhist I know there is no such thing as a one-sided coin. Every coin has two sides and it is our choice to decide if we only want to focus on one side or the other. Or we can choose to see that both sides are inseparable and part of the same coin. The other side for me was finally being free of the studio system and all its constraints and expectations….When Mr. Ebert’s book, “Your Movie Sucks!” came out I admit to feeling sore about it. You have to build a somewhat thick body armor to survive in show business. But the strange thing was, when I heard Roger was sick I felt terrible and my heart ached. Whatever bad feelings that were leftover melted away and all I remembered was thinking about how much I really admired and loved Roger Ebert and his work and how grateful I felt to him for introducing me to countless films from all over the world that became such an important part of my life and of my work.”

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Most important, he said,

The day I heard Roger was sick, I decided that I would not be the person who thanked or remembered what someone meant to them only after they were gone. I asked the florist to make the most beautiful arrangement possible and I wrote a note to Roger from a real fan and grateful admirer and I think most importantly for him, a fellow lover of world cinema in all it’s varieties. I think I said simply, “Roger, thank you for sharing your love of cinema with all of us. I hope you are back doing what you love most soon, watching movies from your La-Z-Boy chair! Signed, Rob Schneider, your least favorite movie star.” And I am so very glad I did.

….

There is never only light or never only dark. But light-dark and dark light. These shades are the universe’s way of challenging us and testing us in this great game of life. Where hopefully we come to realize we are each a part of the whole, and the whole a part of each of us. In the big bang 14.5 billion years ago in some very real way, we were there.

That’s pretty cool I think. Maybe someone could make a movie about that.

If only.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment MaryG

    Read this on Chaz’s blog, plus a few times since– and at this point I think I will never tire of reading this story. It is one of the most moving and brilliant gestures ever. Over the years, Mr. Ebert became one of my very favorite writers (as a communicator, aside from his immense talent as a film critic). If someone would have told me I’d be marveling over a beautiful and profound piece of writing by Rob Schneider, I would have said that’d likely be the only time that name and “died laughing” came together in my mind. But I’m humbled by his grace. And immensely, immensely impressed by Mr. Schneider. So glad this story is getting around.

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks, MaryG. The story touches me very much, and says a lot about both men.

  • http://www.shareddarkness.com BRS

    Beautiful story/anecdote that I hadn’t heard — it warms the heart, truly!

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