A sad announcement came early this morning that the highly talented writer and director, Nora Ephron, passed away late on Tuesday night - an Oscar-nominated screenwriter, she was 71 and had been battling cancer (acute myeloid leukemia); unfortunately, she died due to complications relating to the condition. Tom Hanks, an actor very familiar to Ephron’s films, gave a tribute in her honour:
“[She] was a journalist/artist who knew what was important to know: how things really worked, what was worthwhile, who was fascinating and why. At a dinner table and on a film set, she lifted us all with wisdom and wit mixed with love for us and love for life.”
Writing apparently ran in the Ephron family’s genes: she was born on 19th May 1941, the eldest of four sisters, all of whom became writers; her mother and father also wrote for the screen and stage. No stranger to real-life drama, Ephron took what she’d experienced and brought it to life through the written word, taking her mother’s advice: “take notes; everything is copy.”
Not only was she an accomplished screenwriter, she also wrote essays and was an acclaimed novelist as well - her 1983 prose-fiction piece, Heartburn, was made into a film three years later, starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. The film brought about Ephron’s big movie break, the subject of which was based on events from her life.
Her work brought the timeless fairytale romances of Old Hollywood back to the screen, with a modern and feminist twist. Using the strong female leads and biting wit that she was famous for to create her features, it would appear she had as much of a sense of humour off the page as on it:
“One of the few advantages to not being beautiful is that one usually gets better-looking as one gets older; I am, in fact, at this very moment gaining my looks.”
When Harry Met Sally is one her most famous works, known throughout the world for the scene which takes place in Katz’s deli, a venue that continues to be incredibly busy even today. The film’s co-star, Billy Crystal, had this to say of her:
“I am very sad to learn of Nora’s passing. She was a brilliant writer and humourist. Being her Harry to Meg’s Sally will always have a special place in my heart. I was very lucky to get to say her words.”
Other high-profile people paying their respects included funny guy Steve Martin, Jessica Biel, Bette Midler and even New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg:
“Nora Ephron always loved a good New York story, and she could tell them like no-one else. NYC will miss her very much.” - NY Mayor Bloomberg
You’ve Got Mail (co-written with sister, Delia) and Julie & Julia are among some of my personal favourite films, due mostly to the expert writing and handling of characterisation. Ephron brought out so much emotion and empathy from the fairly ordinary circumstances she wrote about. It just goes to show how much life reflects art, or certainly influences it, at least. I remain a big fan of Nora’s and am honoured to count her as one of those who inspired me to become a writer.
Our thoughts are with her family at this time. She will be sorely missed.