Film critic Roger Ebert, who lost his ability to speak after surgery for thyroid cancer, tried out a new voice on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" yesterday as he made his Oscar predictions, The Associated Press reports.
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 voice from DVD movie commentary tracks.
The film critic can type what he wants to say and listeners hear his voice. On yesterday's show, 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."
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?"
Some of Ebert's Oscar picks
BEST PICTURE: "The Hurt Locker"
BEST DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow, "The Hurt Locker"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Mo'Nique, "Precious"
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds"
BEST ACTRESS: Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side"
BEST ACTOR: Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart"