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Writer-Director Nora Ephron Dies at 71 of Leukemia

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood June 26, 2012 at 9:29PM

Hollywood doesn't have enough sophisticated witty writers, much less writer-directors like Nora Ephron. She died after battling leukemia at age 71. Ephron was funny as hell. She was one of the few filmmakers who could craft believable, endearing and funny romantic comedies, a dying art.
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Nora Ephron
Nora Ephron

Hollywood doesn't have enough sophisticated witty writers, much less writer-directors like Nora Ephron. She died Tuesday after battling leukemia at age 71.

Ephron was funny as hell. She was one of the few filmmakers who could craft believable, endearing and funny contemporary romantic comedies, a dying art.

The New York journalist and author began her screenwriting career rewriting William Goldman's adaptation of her then-husband Carl Bernstein's "All the President's Men," and said she learned a lot from Goldman. She earned her first Oscar nomination for Mike Nichols' 1984 biopic "Silkwood," which she co-wrote with Alice Arlen. Meryl Streep starred in the title role and later starred as Ephron in her 1986 autobiographical novel-turned-movie "Heartburn," directed again by Nichols, and starring Jack Nicholson as the unfaithful Bernstein.

Meg Ryan and Bily Crystal in 'When Harry Met Sally'
Columbia Pictures Meg Ryan and Bily Crystal in 'When Harry Met Sally'

Ephron also earned Oscar nominations for her scripts for two Meg Ryan romantic comedies, Rob Reiner's 1984 "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle," which she directed and co-wrote with David S. Ward and Jeff Arch, co-starring Tom Hanks. She directed eight films, from her debut "This Is My Life" to "You've Got Mail," again with Ryan and Hanks, and her last film, 2009's "Julie and Julia," also starring Streep. Some were hits and some were misses.

Variety reports that Ephron had been developing two film directing projects, a Fox 2000 biopic on singer Peggy Lee with Reese Witherspoon, and Mammoth Screen and Sony's "Lost in Austen."

Ephron is survived by her third husband, writer Nicholas Pileggi; two sons by Bernstein, Jacob and Max; and screenwriter sisters Delia and Amy. 

Here's the LAT and the NYT,  which also aggregates some pieces. Albert Brooks tweeted: "R.I.P. Nora Ephron. A witty, charming, lovely person." Here's a collection of her best quotes.

This article is related to: Obit, Stuck In Love


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.