Women's Corner Presents: The Life & Times of Nora Ephron
The Life & Times of Nora Ephron: "Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim".
Women.com Presents: Women's Corner Featuring Nora Ephron
The Family Business
Nora Ephron was born on the Upper West Side of Manhattan on May 19th, 1941, the eldest of four sisters. Father, Henry and Mother Phoebe Wolkind were Hollywood screenwriters who wrote “Carousel”, “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “Captain Newman, M.D.” Ephron's mother would implement a credo that Nora would influence her work.
Everything is Copy
Her credo “Everything is Copy” defined who she was in many ways. The credo simply put means, anything that happens to you is fair game.
Nora would explain, “When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you, but when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it’s your laugh".
She would stick to this saying through all phases of her life and in all of her work.
In 1962, Ephron moved to New York City after graduation. Having adored the city she moved with the goal of becoming a journalist. She landed a job at Newsweek working as a mail girl. The female employees would eventually go on strike due to unfair pay wages, resulting in Ephron’s contribution to a satirical New York Post piece. After seeing the parody, a publisher at the post, Dorothy Schiff hired her.
Nora Ephron worked at The Post for five years where she covered a range of topics, but always with women's issues in mind. “The Post was a terrible newspaper in the era I worked there,” Ephron was quoted saying, but she develop skills from her time there and continued to write about women's issues from there on out.
Ephron’s credo came back to elevate her career when she turned to magazine journalism. Her voice and style was quickly evident, writing honest, frank, and upfront essays about her life, her relationships, and her body. She was successful thanks in part to her realness and appropriately timed punchlines.
All The President's Men
Ephron fell backwards into screenwriting. Her first husband, Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein and partner, Bob Woodward were unhappy with their novel adaptation titled, “All the President’s Men”. Ephron took a stab at it and although the script was never used, it peaked her interest in writing screenplays.
Ephron struck while the iron was hot and wrote “Silkwood” the true story of Karen Silkwood, who died mysteriously as she was investigating wrongdoings at the plutonium pant where she worked. The movie went on to star Meryl Streep and Kurt Russel, with Mike Nichols directing.
In 1979, pregnant with baby number two, Ephron learned her husband, Carl Bernstein was having an affair with a mutual friend. With her adage, “everything is copy” in mind, she turned her pain into her work and published, “Heartburn”. The book was real; a wife and husband are torn apart by an affair. The realistic breakdown of a marriage and relationship proved that Ephron wasn't hiding anything in her work. The novel was turned into a movie, written by none other than Nora Ephron. Meryl Streep starred yet again this time with Jack Nicholson by her side.
Ephron hit her stride and wrote “When Harry Met Sally…” and collaborated with director Rob Reiner. Yet again, Ephron’s credo came into play, as she wrote Sally, a single woman living in Manhattan using experiences from her single life. When Harry Met Sally garnered praise and an Oscar Nomination for Ephron’s screenplay. Yet again, Ephron wasn't hiding anything and wrote the famous scene in which Meg Ryan acts out an orgasm at Katz’s Deli. She would later say, "I try to write parts for women that are as complicated and interesting as women actually are".
Queen Of The Romantic Comedy
Ephron would go on to write and direct such movies like, “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail”. Ephron collaborated with Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks, and Meryl Streep often, creating life long friendships with each.
Years later, Ephron would speak on breaking into the biz, “I only know what I did, I don’t know how anyone else does it, I’m not particularly good at advice. It’s important to have seen something, you can’t dig it all out of the well of your life”.
Through the years she wrote and directed more movies, “Lucky Numbers”, “Bewitched”, and her last movie in 2009, “Julie & Julia” in which Meryl Streep portrayed Julia Child.
She composed two essay collections, “I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Reflections on Being a Woman” (2006) and “I Remember Nothing” (2010), both best sellers. She wrote plays, contributed as a blogger to The Huffington Post.
After her tumultuous first marriage, Ephron married Nicholas Pileggi, an author known for his books “Wiseguy” which he adapted into Martin Scorcese’s Goodfellas, and “Casino” which, well, was adapted by Scorcese as well.
Be The Heroine Not The Victim
Nora Ephron died on On June 26, 2012, from pneumonia, a complication resulting from acute myeloid leukemia. She had been diagnosed with the condition in 2006 but chose to keep her illness a secret to her closet friends.
Ephron has two sons, Jacob Bernstein, a journalist and Max Bernstein, a musician. She is survived by her sisters, all of whom are writers as well. After her death, her son, Jacob, created a documentary about his mother and her life titled, Everything is Copy, released by HBO.
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