Died June 26, 2012. Born May 19, 1941.
American filmmaker, director, producer, screenwriter, novelist, playwright, journalist, author, and blogger.
She is best known for her romantic comedies and was a triple nominee for the Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay for three films: Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally... and Sleepless in Seattle. She sometimes wrote with her sister Delia Ephron. Her most recent film was Julie & Julia. She has also co-authored the Drama Desk Award-winning theatrical production, Love, Loss, and What I Wore.
Ephron graduated from Wellesley College in 1962 and worked briefly as an intern in the White House of President John F. Kennedy. After she graduated from Wellesley, she moved to New York and became a mail girl at Newsweek. She only held that position for a year.
When New York City's newspapers suspended publication during a strike by the International Typographical Union, Nora Ephron and some of her friends, including the young Calvin Trillin, put out their own satirical newspaper. Ephron's parodies of New York Post columnists caught the eye of the Post's publisher, Dorothy Schiff. When the strike was over, Schiff hired Ephron as a reporter. The 1960s were a lively time for journalism in New York and Dorothy Schiff's Post, a liberal-leaning afternoon tabloid, offered Ephron a free hand to explore her favorite city from top to bottom. In 1966, she broke the news in the Post that Bob Dylan had married Sara Lownds in a private ceremony three-and-a-half months before. While working at the Post, Nora Ephron also began writing occasional essays for publications such as New York, Esquire and The New York Times Magazine. Her work as a reporter won acclaim as part of the "New Journalism" movement of the 1960s, in which the author's personal voice became part of the story. Her humorous 1972 essay, "A Few Words About Breasts," made her name as an essayist. As a regular columnist for Esquire, and she became one of America's best-known humorists. Her essays, often focusing on sex, food and New York City, were collected in a series of best-selling volumes, Wallflower at the Orgy, Crazy Salad, and Scribble Scribble. In this position, Ephron made a name for herself by taking on subjects as wide-ranging as Dorothy Schiff, her former boss and owner of the Post; Betty Friedan, whom she chastised for pursuing a feud with Gloria Steinem; and her alma mater Wellesley, which she said had turned out a generation of "docile" women." A 1968 send-up of Women's Wear Daily in Cosmopolitan resulted in threats of a lawsuit from WWD.
While married to Bernstein in the mid-1970s, at her husband and Bob Woodward's request, she helped Bernstein re-write William Goldman's script for All the President's Men, because the two journalists were not happy with it. The Ephron-Bernstein script was not used in the end, but was seen by someone who offered Ephron her first screenwriting job, for a television movie.
Nora Ephron enjoyed her greatest success yet with When Harry Met Sally (1989), a romantic comedy directed by Rob Reiner, starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. The film struck an instant chord with audiences and became an international hit. Ephron had seen her parents' writing careers falter in their 1950s, as they both fell prey to alcohol and the fickle fashions of Hollywood. Ephron contemplated a transition to directing, in part to protect her own writing career in an industry still largely inhospitable to films by or about women. Unfortunately, her directing debut, This Is My Life, about the struggles of a single mother working as a stand-up comic, was a box office disappointment. Ephron knew her future as a director would stand or fall with her next assignment.
Sleepless in Seattle (1993) was co-written by Nora Ephron and her younger sister, Delia. Director Nora cast Harry and Sally star Meg Ryan, teaming her with Tom Hanks. The resulting film was an enormous success, and Ephron was now established as Hollywood's foremost creator of romantic comedies. A follow-up film, Mixed Nuts, was a commercial disappointment, but Michael, starring John Travolta as an angel, enjoyed solid success at the box office. In You've Got Mail (1998), Ephron re-united Sleepless stars Hanks and Ryan in a contemporary variation on the classic comedy, The Shop Around the Corner. Ephron's film also serves as a love letter to her beloved Upper West Side. With You've Got Mail, the team of Ephron, Ryan and Hanks scored another huge success.
In the following years, Nora Ephron pursued a wide variety of projects. She made an unexpected foray into writing for the stage with her 2002 play Imaginary Friends, based on the turbulent rivalry of authors Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy. She took another unusual tack with an offbeat big-screen adaptation of the 1960s television series Bewitched, starring Nicole Kidman and Will Ferrell. Her 2006 collection of essays, I Feel Bad Abut My Neck: And Other Reflections on Being a Woman, immediately shot to number one on the New York Times best-seller list.
In her film Julie and Julia, she returned to a favorite subject—food—by telling the parallel stories of famed food writer Julia Child and of a contemporary Manhattan woman who sets out to cook her way through every recipe in Childs's classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The 2009 film starred Ephron's friend and previous collaborator, Meryl Streep, as Julia Child. In addition to her books, plays and movies, Ephron writes a regular blog for the online news site The Huffington Post. Her 2010 collection of essays, I Remember Nothing, takes a humorous look at the aging process and other topics.
In 1994, she was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award. Ephron's 2002 play Imaginary Friends explores the rivalry between writers Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy. She coauthored the play Love, Loss, and What I Wore (based on the book by Ilene Beckerman) with her sister, Delia and it has played to sold out audiences in Canada, New York City, and The Geffen Playhouse in California.
On June 26, 2012, at the age of 71, Ephron died from pneumonia, a complication resulting from acute myeloid leukemia, a condition with which she was diagnosed in 2006.