April 16, 2018 2:22 pm
Kartemquin is deeply saddened by the passing of William "Bill" Nack, who was featured in our 2014 documentary Life Itself, about Roger Ebert.
Nack and Ebert became lifelong friends after meeting at the University of Illinois, while both working on The Daily Illini newspaper. As Ebert went on to became perhaps the world's most famous and greatest film critic, Nack was equally successful in his field of sports writing, gaining great acclaim for his decades of journalism for Sports Illustrated, and in particular for his 1975 book "Secretariat: The Making of a Champion," the definitive work on the Triple Crown-winning horse.
Ebert called his friend, "a born story-teller... (who) approached literature like a gourmet. He relished it, savored it, inhaled it, and after memorizing it rolled it on his tongue and spoke it aloud."
In tribute to Bill Nack, we have uploaded this clip from Life Itself, which displays these skills, as Nack recites the final passage of The Great Gatsby. The initial cinematography in the opening is by Roger Ebert himself.
"I first encountered Bill Nack as a kid with my Sports Illustrated subscription. He was one of those amazing writers for the magazine that elevated the importance of sports in our culture. I could never have known then that I would get to meet Bill someday when we interviewed him for Life Itself. Bill was everything Roger could desire in a dear friend: whip smart, talented, loyal, and extremely funny. In Life Itself, Bill makes some of the most memorable observations about Roger - from talking about his heady days as a fellow student at the University of Illinois, telling hilarious anecdotes about Roger's dating life, to his wry observations about Roger's struggles with Gene Siskel, whom he termed "a rogue planet in Roger's solar system."
Bill also had an incredible gift for reciting poetry and verse. None more poignantly and passionately than the end of The Great Gatsby, which was one of Roger's favorite passages in all of literature. And in Life Itself, Bill's recitation is one of the most moving passages for me in the film. Bill, like Roger, will be greatly missed."
– Steve James, director of Life Itself.