Nora Ephron, Hollywood screenwriter and author, dies from leukemia at 71
Nora Ephron, author and screenwriter of iconic movies When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, has died at the age of 71.
Nora Ephron had fought a six-year battle with leukemia and finally succumbed to the disease.
Her son Jacob Bernstein confirmed her death in Manhattan yesterday.
Nora Ephron earned three Oscar nominations for her screenwriting and her work was among the most quotable and influential of her generation.
Her book publisher Alfred A. Knopf also confirmed her death in a statement as fellow writers and the acting community reacted with shock.
Nora Ephron was born on May 19, 1941 in New York City. At the age of four, she moved to Beverly Hills with her screenwriting parents Henry and Phoebe and three younger sisters.
Determined by high school to be a journalist, Nora Ephron graduated from the single sex Wellesley College in 1962, moved to New York and started out as a fact checker at Newsweek.
She moved to the New York Post and remained there five years.
Nora Ephron soon began writing for Esquire and The New York Times and developed a national following with her articles.
She covered political conventions, the feminist movement and Wellesley, which she labeled a factory for “docile” women.
Nora Ephron married in 1976 to Carl Bernstein, who teamed with reporter Bob Woodward on prize-winning coverage of the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon.
The couple had two children. Nora Ephron was pregnant with her second child when she learned Carl Bernstein was having an affair with a mutual friend Margaret Jay, who was married to the British ambassador to the U.S.
The marriage crumbled but it inspired Nora Ephron’s book Heartburn which was so close to her life that Carl Bernstein threatened to sue.
It was later adapted for screen and starred Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. Meryl Streep teamed up with Nora Ephron again in 2009 to star in Julia & Julia.
Nora Ephron’s talent for bringing to life flawed but deeply likeable and funny women made her beloved by movie audiences – and industry gold.
One of her greatest successes was When Harry Met Sally, the 1989 romantic comedy starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, about two friends who fall in love despite their own misgivings that the “sex part always gets in the way”.
The film struck a chord with audiences for its quirky dialogue, sharp wit and more rounded portrayal of female leads.
As a rare woman to write, direct and produce Hollywood movies, Meg Ryan was among the many actresses who said they loved working with Nora Ephron because she understood them so much better than male peers.
Following When Harry Met Sally, Nora ephron wrote and directed the equally successful Sleepless in Seattle, pairing Meg Ryan with Tom Hanks followed by You’ve Got Mail, also starring Ryan and Hanks.
When Harry Met Sally earned an Academy Award nomination for its screenplay in 1990 and then four years later, Nora Ephron was nominated again for Sleepless in Seattle.
Nora Ephron was married three times: to Dan Greenberg, Carl Bernstein and, quite happily, to Nicholas Pileggi whose books inspired Martin Scorcese’s films Goodfellas and Casino.
Nora Ephron is survived by her husband, two sons Max and Jacob, along with sisters Delia, Amy and Hallie Ephron, all of whom are writers.
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