Roger Ebert Tries Out New Voice; Offers Oscar Picks

Honoree and film critic Roger Ebert arrives to the 2009 DGA Awards Honoree and film critic Roger Ebert arrives to the 2009 DGA Awards

Film critic Roger Ebert, who lost his ability to speak after surgery for cancer, tried out a new voice on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” on Tuesday as he made his Oscar predictions.

Ebert has been using off-the-shelf computer voices but they didn’t sound like him. Now computer programmers at a Scottish company called CereProc have captured the sound of Ebert’s voicefrom DVD movie commentary tracks.

The film critic can type what he wants to say and listeners hear his voice. On an episode of the talk show airing Tuesday, Ebert said the beta version needs improvement, but at least it sounds like him.

“In first grade, they said I talk too much. And now I still can,” Ebert said.

A laptop computer in front of him and wife Chaz at his side, Ebert expressed himself exuberantly without speaking, crossing his fingers when Winfrey said he is cancer free, holding a hand to his heart to show affection and making eager grasps at the empty air when Winfrey asked if he misses food.

Ebert said he can’t remember a year when it seemed easier to predict the Oscars but acknowledged “those may be famous last words.” His picks?

Best Picture: “The Hurt Locker.”

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker.”

Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique for “Precious.”

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz for “Inglourious Basterds.”

Best Actress: Sandra Bullock for “The Blind Side.”

Best Actor: Jeff Bridges for “Crazy Heart.”

Ebert also said he won’t have more surgery to “patch my face back together,” going back to one of the off-the-shelf voices that sounded more like a computer than Ebert.

“That’s right. No more surgery for me,” Ebert said. “This is the way I look and my life is happy and productive. So why have any more surgery?”

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