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Natasha Lyonne: Auditioning for Nora Ephron Was Like Having a ‘Free Therapy Session’

The "Russian Doll" creator credited the late writer/director for being a "very significant figure" in her career.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 21: Natasha Lyonne attends the Fifth Annual InStyle Awards at The Getty Center on October 21, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for InStyle)

Natasha Lyonne

Getty Images for InStyle

Natasha Lyonne is reflecting on Nora Ephron’s legacy, especially when it comes to her personal relationship with the late “You’ve Got Mail” writer-director.

“Nora Ephron was a very significant figure in my story,” Lyonne recalled to W Magazine. “My very first acting gig was as a glorified extra in her film ‘Heartburn.’ That was [inspired by] Nora’s marriage to Carl Bernstein. I was five years old and I am sleeping on some guy’s lap at a wedding. And then when I was coming back in my phase two, post-junkie dump, I auditioned for Nora again.”

Starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson as a couple in crisis, 1986’s “Heartburn” was directed by Mike Nichols and written by Nora Ephron from her own semi-autobiographical novel.

Lyonne continued, “I wanted a part in her play [2010’s ‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’], but I was having a really hard time with a boyfriend, and I said, ‘While I have you — if you could just give me a little advice here. It doesn’t matter if I get the job; I see this as a free therapy session.’ That’s really what I’m doing in showbiz; I’ve gained access to people who are tremendous thinkers and I’m trying to crack this case.”

Lyonne revealed Ephron was “always looking out for me” both personally and professionally along Lyonne’s sobriety journey.

“I had to have open heart surgery, and she made sure I had the best room at Columbia-Presbyterian and the greatest surgeon,” Lyonne explained. “I woke up to roses, and she and Chloë [Sevigny] were determined to see me through this thing. And then Nora gave me my first gig back. She had me stay at her house in Los Angeles, and I was like, ‘Are you crazy?’ And she said, ‘Everybody has problems.’ She really helped me understand that I was OK.”

“When Harry Met Sally” screenwriter Ephron penned 17 film projects over the course of her career, directing and producing many of her own features. The journalist and memoirist was behind “Sleepless in Seattle,” “Michael,” and “Julie & Julia” before her passing in 2012.

Lyonne previously explained that “from the first instant I met her, I wanted to be Nora Ephron. I just really wanted to please her.” The “American Pie” alum also shared an email from Ephron about the making of “Russian Doll.”

“I found this, I don’t even know how I was searching for it, but it popped up with this old email from Nora that was like: ‘What we discussed today. A TV show, you play a character named Nadia,'” Lyonne stated during a “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” appearance in 2019. “‘She chain smokes, she has existential dilemmas and so forth, sex or no sex.’ It’s all written sort of like Nora. In a way, that was deeply moving.”

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