Nora Ephron

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Nora Ephron
Nora Ephron.jpg
Ephron at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival
Born (1941-05-19)May 19, 1941
New York City, U.S.
Died June 26, 2012(2012-06-26) (aged 71)
New York City, U.S.
Cause of death Pneumonia brought on by acute myeloid leukemia
Alma mater Wellesley College
Occupation Screenwriter, producer, director, journalist, playwright, author
Years active 1973–2012
Notable work Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally..., Sleepless in Seattle, Julie & Julia
Children 2
Parent(s) Henry Ephron,
Phoebe Wolkind
  • BAFTA Award (1990)
  • Crystal Award (1994)
  • Ian McLellan Hunter Award (2003)
  • Golden Apple Award (2009)

Nora Ephron (/ˈɛfrən/ EF-rən;[1] May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012) was an American writer and filmmaker. She is best known for her romantic comedy films and was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Writing: for Silkwood (1983), When Harry Met Sally... (1989), and Sleepless in Seattle (1993). She won a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay for When Harry Met Sally.... She sometimes wrote with her sister Delia Ephron. Her last film was Julie & Julia.[2] She also co-authored the Drama Desk Award–winning theatrical production Love, Loss, and What I Wore.[2][3] In 2013, Ephron received a posthumous Tony Award nomination for Best Play for Lucky Guy.[4]

Personal life

Ephron was born in New York City, the eldest of four daughters, and grew up in Beverly Hills.[5] Her parents, Henry and Phoebe (née Wolkind) Ephron, were both East Coast-born and were noted playwrights and screenwriters. Nora's younger sisters, Delia and Amy, are also screenwriters. Her sister Hallie Ephron is a journalist, book reviewer, and novelist who writes crime fiction. Ephron's parents based the ingenue character in the play and film version of Take Her, She's Mine on the 22-year-old Nora and her letters from college.[6] Both her parents became alcoholics during their declining years.[5] Ephron graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1958, and from Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, in 1962 with a degree in political science.[7]

She was married three times. Her first marriage, to writer Dan Greenburg, ended in divorce after nine years.[5] In 1976, she married journalist Carl Bernstein. In 1979, Ephron had a toddler son, Jacob, and was pregnant with her second son Max when she discovered Bernstein's affair with their mutual friend,[8] married British politician Margaret Jay. Ephron was inspired by this to write the 1983 novel Heartburn,[9] which was then made into a 1986 Mike Nichols film starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. In the book, Ephron wrote of a husband named Mark, who was "capable of having sex with a Venetian blind."[5] She also wrote that the character Thelma (based on Margaret Jay) looked like a giraffe with "big feet".[5] Bernstein threatened to sue over the book and film but never did.[6]

Ephron was married for more than 20 years to screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi until her death. The couple lived in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles, and in New York City.

Ephron was Jewish by birth. Ephron's friend Richard Cohen said of her, "She was very Jewish, culturally and emotionally. She identified fully as a Jewish woman."[10] However, Ephron was not religious. "You can never have too much butter – that is my belief. If I have a religion, that's it", she quipped in an NPR interview about her 2009 movie, Julie & Julia.[11]

Her son, Jacob Bernstein, directed an HBO movie on her life called Everything Is Copy.[12]


After graduating from Wellesley College in 1962, Ephron worked briefly as an intern in the White House of President John F. Kennedy.[13] She also applied to be a writer at Newsweek. After she was told they did not hire women writers, she accepted a position as a mail girl.[14]

After eventually quitting Newsweek because she was not allowed to write, Ephron participated in a class action lawsuit against the magazine for sexual discrimination, described in the book The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace by Lynn Povich, and both the lawsuit and Ephron’s role were fictionalized in a 2016 Amazon series by the similar main title Good Girls Revolt.[15]

After a satire she wrote lampooning the New York Post caught the editor's eye, Ephron accepted a job at the Post, where she worked as a reporter for five years.[6] In 1966, she broke the news in the Post that Bob Dylan had married Sara Lownds in a private ceremony.[16] Upon becoming a successful writer, she wrote a column on women's issues for Esquire.[5] 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 and unadventurous women."[6] A 1968 send-up of Women's Wear Daily in Cosmopolitan resulted in threats of a lawsuit from WWD.[6]

She rewrote a script for All the President's Men in the mid-1970s, along with her then husband Bernstein. While the script was not used, it was seen by someone who offered Ephron her first screenwriting job, for a television movie,[6] which began her screenwriting career.[17]

In 1983, Ephron coscripted the film Silkwood with Alice Arlen. The film, directed by Mike Nichols, stars Meryl Streep as Karen Silkwood, a whistleblower at the Kerr McGee Cimarron nuclear facility who dies under suspicious circumstances.[18] Ephron and Arlen were nominated for Best Original Screenplay in 1984 for Silkwood.[19]

In 1994, she was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award.[20] Ephron's 2002 play Imaginary Friends explores the rivalry between writers Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy. She co-authored 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 Los Angeles.[citation needed]

Ephron and Deep Throat

For many years, Ephron was among only a handful of people in the world who knew the true identity of Deep Throat, the source for news articles written by her ex-husband Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward during the Watergate scandal.[21] Ephron claimed she had guessed the identity of Deep Throat after reading Bernstein's notes, which referred to the unnamed person as "MF".[21] Bernstein claimed "MF" was short for "My Friend," but Ephron guessed correctly that the initials stood for Mark Felt, the former associate director of the FBI.[21]

Ephron's marriage with Bernstein ended acrimoniously, and after the breakup Ephron was open about the identity of Deep Throat.[5] She revealed his identity to her son Jacob and anyone else who asked. She once commented, "I would give speeches to 500 people and someone would say, 'Do you know who Deep Throat is?' And I would say, 'It's Mark Felt.'"[5] Classmates of Jacob Bernstein at the Dalton School and Vassar College recall Jacob's revealing to numerous people that Felt was Deep Throat. This revelation attracted little media attention during the many years that the identity of Deep Throat was a mystery. Ephron later conceded that "No one, apart from my sons, believed me."[22] Ephron was invited by Arianna Huffington to write about the experience in the Huffington Post, for which she was a regular blogger and part-time editor.[21]


On June 26, 2012, Ephron died from pneumonia, a complication resulting from acute myeloid leukemia,[2] which she was diagnosed with in 2006.[23]

In her final book, I Remember Nothing (2010), Ephron left clues that something was wrong with her or that she was ill, particularly in a list at the end of the book citing "things I won't miss/things I'll miss".[24]

Many people were taken by surprise by the notice of her death as she had kept her illness secret from most people. Meryl Streep, Bette Midler, Barbara Walters, Joy Behar, Matthew Broderick, Rosie O'Donnell, Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Nicole Kidman, Tom Hanks, Albert Brooks, and Ron Howard commented on her brilliance, warmth, generosity, and wit.[25][26]

At the Karlovy Vary Film Festival of that year, actresses Helen Mirren and Susan Sarandon, who were honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award, paid tribute to her during their speeches.

Nora Ephron Prize

The Nora Ephron Prize is a $25,000 award by the Tribeca Film Festival for a female writer or filmmaker "with a distinctive voice".[27] The first Nora Ephron Prize was awarded in 2013 to Meera Menon for her film Farah Goes Bang.[27]


Feature films

Year Title Credited as
Director Screenwriter Producer
1983 Silkwood Yes
1986 Heartburn Yes
1989 When Harry Met Sally... Yes Yes
Cookie Yes Yes
1990 My Blue Heaven Yes Yes
1991 The Super (uncredited)[28] Yes
1992 This Is My Life Yes Yes
1993 Sleepless in Seattle Yes Yes
1994 Mixed Nuts Yes Yes
1996 Michael Yes Yes Yes
1998 All I Wanna Do Yes
You've Got Mail Yes Yes Yes
2000 Hanging Up Yes Yes
Lucky Numbers Yes Yes
2005 Bewitched Yes Yes Yes
2009 Julie & Julia Yes Yes Yes


Year Title Notes
2002 Love, Loss, and What I Wore Co-writer
2013 Lucky Guy Writer

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1979 Edgar Allan Poe Awards Best Television Feature or Miniseries Perfect Gentlemen Nominated
1984 Academy Awards Best Original Screenplay Silkwood
(with Alice Arlen)
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Original Screenplay Silkwood
(with Alice Arlen)
1990 Academy Awards Best Original Screenplay When Harry Met Sally... Nominated
BAFTA Awards Best Original Screenplay When Harry Met Sally... Won
Golden Globes Best Screenplay When Harry Met Sally... Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Original Screenplay When Harry Met Sally... Nominated
1994 Academy Awards Best Original Screenplay Sleepless in Seattle
(with David S. Ward and Jeff Arch)
BAFTA Awards Best Original Screenplay Sleepless in Seattle
(with David S. Ward and Jeff Arch)
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Original Screenplay Sleepless in Seattle
(with David S. Ward and Jeff Arch)
Women in Film Crystal Award Crystal Award Won
1999 Satellite Awards Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical You've Got Mail Nominated
2003 Writers Guild of America Awards Ian McLellan Hunter Award Won
2006 Razzie Awards Worst Director Bewitched Nominated
Razzie Awards Worst Screenplay Bewitched
(with Delia Ephron and Adam McKay)
2009 Satellite Awards Best Adapted Screenplay Julie & Julia Nominated
Casting Society of America Golden Apple Award (with Delia Ephron) Won
2010 Writers Guild of America Awards Best Adapted Screenplay Julie & Julia Nominated
2013 Tony Awards Best Play Lucky Guy Nominated

Essay collections and other works


  1. ^ "Delia Ephron on the Closeness and Complexity of Sisterhood". Fresh Air. NPR. December 9, 2013. Event occurs at 1:18–1:44. Retrieved December 11, 2013.  Interview.
  2. ^ a b c Charles Mcgrath (June 26, 2012). "Writer and Filmmaker With a Genius for Humor". The New York Times. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Ragtime, The Scottsboro Boys, The Addams Family and Finian's Rainbow Top Nominations for 2010 Drama Desk Awards". In 2013, she received a posthumous Tony Award nomination for Best Play for Lucky Guy, her last play, on May 3, 2010.
  4. ^ Cadenas, Kerensa (May 2, 2013). "Nora Ephron, Cyndi Lauper Among Tony Award Nominees". IndieWire. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Hawkins, Ed (March 4, 2007). "Get real – ageing's not all Helen Mirren". The Times. London, UK. Archived from the original on September 28, 2011. Retrieved August 16, 2007. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Brockes, Emma (March 3, 2007). "Everything is copy". The Guardian. London, UK. Retrieved August 16, 2007. 
  7. ^ Bergan, Ronald (2012-06-27). "Nora Ephron obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-03-22. 
  8. ^ "For the truly vengeful, the pen (or word processor) is mightier than the sword". Cosmopolitan. July 1, 1996. Retrieved August 17, 2007. 
  9. ^ "Baroness Jay's political progress". BBC News. July 31, 2001. Retrieved August 16, 2007. 
  10. ^ Glassman, Thea (12 September 2016). "Richard Cohen and Nora Ephron: The Real-Life Harry and Sally". The Forward. The Forward Organization, Inc. Retrieved 28 May 2017. 
  11. ^ "Nora Ephron On Julie, Julia And Cooking Like A Child". August 7, 2009. 
  12. ^ "Nora Ephron's son to make documentary about her life". 3 News NZ. April 9, 2013. 
  13. ^ News, ABC. "Nora Ephron: From D.C. Intern to Hollywood Hit". ABC News. Retrieved 2016-11-28. 
  14. ^ Collins, Gail (2012-06-27). "Nora Ephron, the Best Mailgirl Ever". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-11-26. 
  15. ^ Nguyen, Hanh. "'Good Girls Revolt': The Women Who Fought for Equality in the Newsroom | IndieWire". Retrieved 2016-11-26. 
  16. ^ "No Direction Home". Da Capo Press. 1986. Retrieved January 7, 2009. 
  17. ^ "Nora Ephron - Academy of Achievement". Academy of Achievement. Retrieved 2017-03-22. 
  18. ^ "AFI|Catalog". Retrieved 2018-02-12. 
  19. ^ "Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive". Boxoffice. April 1, 1984. 
  20. ^ "Past Recipients: Crystal Award". Women in Film. Archived from the original on June 30, 2011. Retrieved May 10, 2011. 
  21. ^ a b c d Ephron, Nora (May 31, 2005). "Deep Throat and Me: Now It Can Be Told, and Not for the First Time Either". The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 19, 2008. 
  22. ^ "Nora Ephron". The Daily Telegraph. London, UK. June 27, 2012. 
  23. ^ Adam Bernstein (June 26, 2012). "Nora Ephron, prolific author and screenwriter, dies at age 71". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  24. ^ Friedman, Roger (June 26, 2012). "Nora Ephron Left Clues About Dying in Her Final Book". Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  25. ^ "Celebrities react to the death of Nora Ephron". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Associated Press. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  26. ^ Matt Donnelly. "Nora Ephron: Celebs, Hollywood react to her death". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 27, 2012. 
  27. ^ a b Goodman, Stephanie (April 25, 2013). "Nora Ephron Prize Is Given to Director of Farah Goes Bang". The New York Times. 
  28. ^ Borrelli, Christopher (27 September 2011). "'Teen Wolf' director's brutally honest commentary". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 13 April 2015. 
  29. ^ Yardley, Jonathan (2 November 2004). "Nora Ephron's 'Crazy Salad': Still Crisp". The Washington Post. 

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