Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron (EHF-rihn; May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012) was an American journalist, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, producer, director, and blogger.

Ephron is best known for her romantic comedies and was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Writing: for Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally..., and Sleepless in Seattle. 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. She also co-authored the Drama Desk Award–winning theatrical production Love, Loss, and What I Wore. In 2013, Ephron received a posthumous Tony Award nomination for Best Play for her play Lucky Guy.

    Personal life

    Ephron was born in New York City, eldest of four daughters, in a Jewish family, and grew up in Beverly Hills. Her parents, Henry and Phoebe Ephron (née Wolkind), were both East Coast-born and raised screenwriters. Her 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. Both her parents became alcoholics during their declining years. Ephron graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1958, and from Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, in 1962.

    She was married three times. Her first marriage, to writer Dan Greenburg, ended in divorce after nine years. In 1976, she married journalist Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame. In 1979, Ephron had a toddler son, Jacob, and was pregnant with her second son when she discovered Bernstein's affair with their common friend, married British politician Margaret Jay. Ephron was inspired by this to write the 1983 novel Heartburn, 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." She also wrote that the character Thelma (based on Margaret Jay) looked like a giraffe with "big feet." Bernstein threatened to sue over the book and film, but he never did.

    Ephron was married for more than 20 years to screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi until her death. The couple lived in New York City.

    Although Jewish by birth, 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.

    Her son Jacob Bernstein is to direct an HBO movie on her life called Everything Is Copy.


    After graduating from Wellesley College in 1962 Ephron worked briefly as an intern in the White House of President John F. Kennedy.

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

    While married to Bernstein in the mid-1970s, at his and Bob Woodward's request, she helped Bernstein rewrite William Goldman's script for All the President's Men, because the two journalists were not happy with it. The Ephron–Bernstein script was not used in the end, but was seen by someone who offered Ephron her first screenwriting job for a television movie.

    In 1994, she was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award. Ephron's 2002 play Imaginary Friends explores the rivalry between writers Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy. She coauthored 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.

    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. Ephron said she guessed the identity of Deep Throat after reading Bernstein's notes, which referred to the unnamed person as "MF." Bernstein claimed "MF" was short for "My Friend," but Ephron guessed correctly that the initials stood for Mark Felt, the late former associate director of the FBI, who some suspected was Bernstein and Woodward's source.

    Ephron's marriage with Bernstein ended acrimoniously, and after the breakup Ephron was open about the identity of Deep Throat. 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.'" Classmates of Jacob Bernstein at the Dalton School and Vassar College recall Jacob's revealing to numerous people that Felt was Deep Throat. Curiously, this revelation did not get any real attention from the media 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." 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.


    On June 26, 2012, Ephron died from pneumonia, a complication resulting from acute myeloid leukemia, a condition with which she was diagnosed in 2006. 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." There was a shocked reaction to her death (as she had kept her illness secret from most people), with Meryl Streep, Matthew Broderick, Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Nicole Kidman, Tom Hanks, Albert Brooks, and Ron Howard commenting on her brilliance, warmth, generosity, and wit.

    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". The first Nora Ephron Prize was awarded in 2013 to Meera Menon for her film Farah Goes Bang.


    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) 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 )
    Writers Guild of America Awards Best Original Screenplay Silkwood
    (with )
    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

    • Wallflower at the Orgy (1970)
    • Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women (1975), ISBN 978-0394497358
    • The Boston Photographs (1975)
    • Scribble, Scribble: Notes on the Media (1978), ISBN 978-0394501253
    • Heartburn (1983, a novel)
    • I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman (2006)
    • I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections (2010)
    • The Most of Nora Ephron (2013), ISBN 978-0-385-35083-9


    • "Like most of my contemporaries, I first read The Fountainhead when I was 18 years old. I loved it. I too missed the point. I thought it was a book about a strong-willed architect...and his love life.... I deliberately skipped over all the passages about egoism and altruism. And I spent the next year hoping I would meet a gaunt, orange-haired architect who would rape me. Or failing that, an architect who would rape me. Or failing that, an architect. I am certain that The Fountainhead did a great deal more for architects than Architectural Forum ever dreamed." The New York Times Book Review (1968)
    • " can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream." Heartburn
    • "Maybe young women don't wonder whether they can have it all any longer, but in case any of you are wondering, of course you can have it all." 1996 Wellesley commencement.
    • Her six-word biography in Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure: "Secret to Life, Marry an Italian."


    External links

    • Nora Ephron at the Internet Movie Database
    • Appearances on C-SPAN
    • Nora Ephron collected news and commentary at The New York Times
    • Nora Ephron collected news and commentary at The Guardian
    • Works by or about Nora Ephron in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
    • John Williams (June 27, 2012). "Nora Ephron, the Queen of Quips". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2012. 
    • Frank Bruni (June 27, 2012). "At the Table, Nora Ephron Knew Best". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2012. 
    • Julia Moskin (June 27, 2012). "Nora Ephron Never Forgot the Food". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2012. 
    • Neri Livneh (July 5, 2012), "Neri Livneh salutes her heroine, Nora Ephron"
    • "Plays by Nora Ephron". Doollee.
    • Nora Ephron Video produced by Makers: Women Who Make America
    • Movie clips: "The Films of Nora Ephron" on YouTube, compilation, 5 min.
    • "Nora Ephron". Find a Grave. Retrieved June 25, 2013.