- "I don't like food - I love it! And if I don't love it, I don't swallow."
- —Ego to Linguini
Anton Ego is a character in Ratatouille.
Ego is an imperious and acerbic food critic, whose reviews can make or break a restaurant. He adamantly rejects Gusteau's belief that anyone can cook, and was a firm critic of the idealist chef. Following a harsh review from Ego, Gusteau's restaurant was downgraded from five to four stars. Gusteau died mysteriously soon after. The restaurant then lost another star with his death. In his career-killing review, he compared Chef Gusteau to the rather pathetic Chef Boyardee.
When he had heard that Gusteau's was rising in popularity with Remy as the cook, he personally offers a challenge to the restaurant in which they must deliver "their best shot" to impress him. Remy serves a simple peasant dish, ratatouille (a play on words and the title namesake) which is so brilliant it reduces Ego to his childhood memory of his mother's cooking. When he requests to see the chef, Linguini and Colette tell him to wait until after the customers have gone. When closing hour is struck, Linguini reveals Remy. Ego initially believes it to be a jest, but after hearing Linguini explain, viewing Remy perfectly recreate the dish and asking an occasional question, he thanks them for the meal and leaves quietly.
A changed man, Ego finally understands what Gusteau's catchphrase, "Anyone can cook" meant: While not everyone can be an artist, true talent can be found in the most unusual place. He presents a shining review of the restaurant, and in particular, the chef (whom he does not name). Ego then loses his job and credibility as a critic when Gusteau's is closed down due to the presence of rats, but now leads a successful and a happy life as a small time business investor and regular patron of the small bistro La Ratatouille, with queues around the block and where the cook is a small rat. Anton Ego is an example of a realistic villain, one who faces adverse action or reformation, rather than simply getting destroyed at the end.
The name Ego means "self-esteem," from the Roman meaning "I." This would allude to a certain level of vanity and arrogance on the part of Anton. He has nothing but contempt for the people around him combined with a cruel sense of humor and something of a sadistic streak. However, unlike Skinner, he is not presented as a man of pure evil. He shows a great amount of humility and indeed sentiment after eating Remy's dish of ratatouille and learning the secret of Gusteau's restaurant.
Ego is extremely passionate about food, claiming, "I don't like food, I love it," and claims to refuse to swallow food that he doesn't like, which explains why he's so thin.
He is a man of great taste and distinction, showing a knowledge of fine wines as well as food.
Ego is intelligent and sophisticated and in terms of dress sense, he appears to be something of a dandy, completing his dark, dapper suit with a chic scarf.
- Anton Ego appears to be loosely based on Giulio Andreotti, the Italian Prime Minister and recent subject of the film Il Divo. They are very similar in both speech and physical appearance and both strike fear into those whose lives they can influence.
- Ego is most likely a mixture of traits borrowed from the late horror actor, Vincent Price and British art critic, Brian Sewell.
- Ego's appearance was modeled after Louis Jouvet.
- Many fans have noted the similarities between Ego's design and that of the work of Tim Burton, a well-known movie director.
- Ego's appearance is similar to Nosferatu.
- Ego is also known as "The Grim Eater" within the press.
- At one point in the film, you can see Bomb Voyage as a mime in the background. There is a young boy watching him do his tricks, and if you look closely, you can see that it is young Anton Ego (From Ego's flashback).
- Anton's office is shaped as a coffin and his typewriter seems to have a skull motif on it, setting the mood of the character.
- Ego can also be compared to critic Simon Cowell: both are extremely blunt and deliver especially harsh criticism to any performances that do not please them; both have nicknames associated with the Grim Reaper (Ego is called "The Grim Eater," while Simon has occasionally been called "The Grim Reaper"); and their critical reviews tend to "make or break" people.