Nora Ephron Has Died

The writer/director was 71

Nora Ephron Has Died

by James White |
Published on

Given that one of the most iconic moments in her cinematic back catalogue took place on the Empire State Building, the flags of that famous tower should be flying at half mast today, because writer / producer / director Nora Ephron has died at the age of 71.

While she was best known for writing When Harry Met Sally and directing the likes of** Sleepless In Seattle**, You’ve Got Mail and, more recently, Julie & Julia, Ephron’s career spanned a wide variety of creative experiences.

Graduating from Wellesley College in 1962, Ephron worked briefly as an intern for president John F Kennedy. From there, she moved to the mailroom at Newsweek and, during a strike, began working on a satirical newspaper of her own with friends. Ephron took particular delight in spoofing the New York Post, which caught the attention of the real Post’s publisher and won her a job. A scoop about Bob Dylan getting married privately in 1966 helped boost her career, as did her side gig as a humorous essayist, which landed her book deals and a columnist job at Esquire.

Ephron’s shift into filmmaking happened unexpectedly: while married to Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein, she was drafted into re-write William Goldman’s script for All The President’s Men. Though her work was not ultimately used for the film, it caught enough attention that she was approached to write TV episodes and movies. But she really landed on the map with her script for 1983 nuclear whistle-blower drama Silkwood, for which she was nominated for an Oscar. Her marriage would again be a factor in her work with 1986’s Heartburn (based on her 1983 book) as Bernstein’s infidelity led her to craft characters loosely based on his married mistress.

Another Oscar nomination followed for When Harry Met Sally, which remains among Ephron’s best-loved works. After writing and producing My Blue Heaven, she tried her hand at directing with This Is My Life, which didn’t fly at the box office, but didn’t hurt her reputation, either. And with Sleepless In Seattle, Ephron was launched into the A-list of romantic comedy creators.

She went on to have several more big hits, including You’ve Got Mail (which saw the reunion of Sleepless stars Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks), and Julie & Julia, which reunited her with Meryl Streep after their collaborations on Silkwood and Heartburn. But she also suffered lows, with the film version of Bewitched proving especially difficult. And aside from movies, Ephron also wrote plays and continued to produce books and essays. Even as she became ill with leukaemia, she continued to set up projects, planning a biography of Peggy Lee and a US adaptation of TV drama Lost In Austen.

A real loss to cinema and comedy, she’s survived by her sisters Hallie, Delia (an occasional collaborator) and Amy, her sons Max and Jacob and third Husband Goodfellas / Casino book writer, Nicholas Pileggi, who she married in 1987. Our thoughts go out to her family.

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