I’m sitting here reeling from the news that Nora Ephron has died. No one even knew she was sick and now she is gone. The loss to movies, and especially to women in movies, cannot be underestimated. This is a woman who was an Oscar nominated screenwriter three times over for Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle. Not many people can boast one Oscar nomination and she got three. She was a successful writer who then at 50 became a director. In a business that prides itself on youth, and precisely speaking, male youth, this woman decided to become a director after a successful career as a journalist and screenwriter.
I loved her debut film This is My Life. I loved how bold and naive it was. I love its honesty and its rawness. I loved that it told a story of a woman’s life. I met her only once at a recent event where she spoke about the film with Lena Dunham and what I remember most was her pride when talking about Lena. She was excited to see this young woman blossom. She was excited to see the next generation of women directors. She had already seen the whole season of Girls before any of us and she could not stop talking about how good it was.
Nora Ephron was a woman who directed studio movies. We can count those women on one hand. She entered that club when she directed Sleepless in Seattle which she also wrote. She stayed in that club throughout her whole career all the way to her last film Julie and Julia. She prided herself in being a writer/director of films that talked about women. I’m sad that we will never get to to see her direct another film. She had a Peggy Lee biopic with Reese Witherspoon in the works and also an adaptation of Lost in Austen.
We can’t underestimate how important she was as a role model to women directors. She got films about women greenlit at the studio level. Not many women can say that. The thing about her is that she was unafraid to write about women because that is what she knew. Her book Heartburn is legendary. She endeared herself to women when she eviscerated her ex-husband on paper and on screen. She made many women love her because she made women and women’s experiences matter. She wrote about and for a generation of women who grew up with feminism with all its pluses and the minuses and she made us women who were younger laugh about what was to come in our futures.
Most of all she made women count in Hollywood. She was a feminist writer because she cared about writing about women when so few others did.
One thing to remember is that she actually created some of the most memorable events in movie history. The orgasm scene in When Harry met Sally. Unforgettable. The great radio conversation in Sleepless in Seattle. She created Meg Ryan’s career — she appeared in four of her films — and Meryl Streep was in three of them playing Nora’s alter ego in Heartburn and her heroines in Silkwood and Julie and Julia.
It’s going to take a lot more a shocked two hours to put into writing the importance of Nora Ephron to women and to movies.
All I can say is that I am so sad as are most people I have been conversing with this evening. This is a huge and devastating loss.
Nora Ephron, prolific author and screenwriter, dies at age 71 (Washington Post)