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'Housekeeping' star recalls script as best she ever saw

CHAMPAIGN – After first reading Scottish director Bill Forsyth's script for "Housekeeping," actress Christine Lahti decided it was the best screenplay ever sent to her.

She was being considered for the lead of Sylvie – another actress who had been in the running was Diane Keaton. Lahti said she was told she might get the part if she and Forsyth got along.


'Romance & Cigarettes' wins praise for filming outside box

CHAMPAIGN – Introducing the movie "Romance & Cigarettes" on Sunday at Roger Ebert's Film Festival, Time magazine movie critic Richard Corliss said moviemaking is in a "very timid period."

"Do you know how many movies try to do something different? How many moviemakers in a decade even try it? Four?" he asked.


Academy Award winning director, UI grad returns to town

CHAMPAIGN – Director Ang Lee returned triumphant to his alma mater on Saturday, receiving a standing ovation at Roger Ebert's Film Festival after he first walked on stage, along with a surprise serenade of "Illinois Loyalty"" by the a cappella group The Other Guys.

Lee smiled, nodded and clapped. He thanked Chaz Ebert, who had introduced him as a leading filmmaker who apparently had come out of nowhere, and the audience.

"I'm so proud to be a Fighting Illini," said the 1980 graduate of the UI Department of Theatre and one of the world's leading filmmakers.


Farmer's doc reaps event's first standing ovation

CHAMPAIGN – The first standing ovation of the 10th annual Roger Ebert's Film Festival greeted the close-to-home documentary, "The Real Dirt on Farmer John," on Friday evening.

The seventh film of the 13-film festival is about Farmer John Peterson, a quirky farmer who turned his longtime family farm in northern Illinois into a hippie/artist commune before losing it.


Actor says 'Canvas' first step to taking apart social stigma of mental illness

CHAMPAIGN – Joey Pantoliano said Thursday night at the Virginia Theatre that he always wanted to be an actor, someone whom people would recognize on the streets.

It happened beyond his expectations. He has appeared in more than 100 films, among them "The Matrix," "Memento" and Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun," and has won numerous awards, including an Emmy in 2003 for his supporting role in the HBO hit series, "The Sopranos."


Moving film took writer-director home – and audience with him

CHAMPAIGN – Chaz Ebert said Friday at Roger Ebert's Film Festival at the Virginia Theatre that she had promised earlier in the week not to cry over her husband's absence from the event.

"It's allowed to cry over the movies," she said after Jeff Nichols's "Shotgun Stories" was screened.


Urbana High teens not shaken up by ceiling mishap

URBANA – For students performing in the Urbana High School musical, "All Shook Up," the show must go on – even if their performance space is shut down.

Sometime before school Friday, part of the ceiling fell in the high school auditorium, where the students planned to open their show next Thursday.


Frederick Douglass actor sets area stops

CHAMPAIGN – Actor Fred Morsell will visit Champaign libraries on Sunday and Monday to portray 19th-century abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

Morsell will recreate some of the escaped slave's most famous speeches and highlight the history and life lessons they contain.


Writer-director dedicates screening of 'Delirious' to absent film critic

CHAMPAIGN – The "disastrous distribution history" of his film "Delirious," which opened the second day of Roger Ebert's Film Festival on Thursday, left writer-director Tom DiCillo "dumbfounded, lost and bewildered."

So much so that he e-mailed five questions to Ebert, whom he had never met. The critic replied to every single one.


British actors feel right at home at C-U fest

British actor Timothy Spall finds the Illini Union intriguing. That's where he and his wife, Shane, and other guests of Roger Ebert's Film Festival are staying.

"My wife and I, we both feel about 195 because the average age around there is 19," he said. "We feel like we're from 'Jurassic Park.'"