Veteran British actor to appear at Ebertfest

Veteran British actor to appear at Ebertfest

Screen, stage and television actor Timothy Spall will be a guest at Roger Ebert's Film Festival with the screening of "Hamlet." The 1996 movie, directed by Kenneth Branagh, will open the festival at 7 p.m. April 23.

Individual tickets to the 13 movies in Ebertfest go on sale starting at 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Virginia Theatre box office. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for senior citizens and students. Call 356-9063 for information. Festival passes sold out soon after they went on sale in previous years.

The London-born Spall played Peter Pettigrew in the "Harry Potter" movies and more recently appeared in Tim Burton's film adaptation of "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" and the Disney feature "Enchanted."

The classically trained British actor is closely associated with British director Mike Leigh, having acted for him in both stage and screen productions. Spall also is a television star, having played Barry in BBC's long-running "Auf Wiedersehen, Pet" (1983-2004) and acted in other BBC series.

He made his film debut with a supporting role in The Who's "Quadrophenia" in 1979. In 1999 he was named an Officer of the Order of British Empire by Queen Elizabeth for his contributions to the arts.

Meanwhile, Roger Ebert left a message Tuesday on his Web site at The Chicago Sun-Times, where the Urbana native began working 41 years ago on April 1.

"I am at last returning to the movie beat. After my current stay at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, I'm looking forward to opening night of my annual film festival at the University of Illinois on April 23, and I will resume writing movie reviews shortly thereafter," he wrote.

"Are you as bored with my health as I am? I underwent a third surgery in January, this one in Houston, and once again there were complications. I am sorry to say that my ability to speak was not restored. That would require another surgery."

In a letter published in Tuesday's Sun-Times, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and co-host of the "Ebert & Roeper" television show said he will not rejoin his syndicated television show because he is unable to speak.

Ebert said in the letter to The Sun-Times that he remains cancer-free and is not ready to think about more surgery.

"I should be content with the abundance I have," he said.

Attempts to reach Ebert were unsuccessful.

Ebertfest at the Virginia and UI campus runs from April 23 to the 27.

In addition to Oscar-winning director Ang Lee, a UI alumnus, other celebrity guests expected to attend are "The Sopranos" actor Joe Pantoliano, "Chicago Hope" actress Christine Lahti and director Paul Shrader.

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