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Personal Reflections on Nora Ephron

Features
by Melissa Silverstein
June 28, 2012 10:29 AM
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When I heard that Nora Ephron passed away I sent an email out to a bunch of people in the business asking them to send me their thoughts.  Some knew her, most didn't, but still loved her.

Here they are (some are edited for length and clarity- some were printed other places first.  The order is random, the affiliations are mine)

I am so sad to have to write this, but in the wake of the awful news that director/screenwriter/journalist and all-around genius Nora Ephron has just died, I want to pay tribute. Nora was my pal from our college days, and we worked on the Wellesley College News together, making trouble and creating journalism and learning what we needed to make our way in the wide, wide world. In New York City she gave me a room in her apartment for a time while I searched for my own; and over the years we also coordinated on various stories, dates and gossip. Nora's friendship and brilliance were surpassed only by her generosity. When I told her I was working on SWIM and asked whether the wonderful play she and her sister Delia had written ("Love, Loss and What I Wore") included anything about bathing suits, she said they'd considered it, but passed. And then supplied one of the great lines for women everywhere: "I think the day that you go to buy a bathing suit is the day that even women who like to shop feel like committing suicide." It's on page 132.

Thank you, Nora, for a lifetime of wit, wisdom and friendship. A lifetime that should have lasted way, way longer.

Lynn Sherr, writer

On behalf of Women In Film, our members and friends, we are deeply saddened by Nora's early passing. Although Nora, like many of us, was frustrated by the continuing need to fight for equality for women at a time when we should beyond this obstacle, her writing and directing effortlessly showed us a world in which men and women are equally interesting, smart, funny and provocative - which is the way the world really is and how it should be illuminated in the stories we tell. Her leadership will be missed."

Cathy Schulman, President, Women In Film

Like so many of us, I was completely blindsided, shaken and deeply sad to hear that Nora Ephron has died. She was a true original, the ultimate New Yorker, and a great writer.

To read anything written by Nora Ephron was to suddenly find oneself in the company of an instantly irreplaceable new best friend-- one who spoke in the most entertaining, refreshing manner about the most incredibly interesting things, the things you'd always longed to discuss with someone but never dared bring up. Nora Ephron dared to bring it all up, and always with total honesty and daring, thrilling humor. She had both wisdom and smarts, a virtually unheard of combination. She had a remarkable gift of speaking the truth, and for expressing joy. 

There's a moment in HEARTBURN where Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson are in bed, discussing the nightmarishly challenging renovation they're embroiled in. Then they have sex. Then pretty much as soon as it's over, Meryl Streep goes back to discussing their contractor.

It's supremely funny, also sad; it captures something so hard to capture about what it's really like to be married-- it's something no one else would write. It's pure Nora Ephron. 

May her soul find the joy and comfort she gave so generously to all of us.

Winnie Holzman, writer

I had the honor of working with Nora on her very first writing/directing debut: This Is My Life.  I was struck by her focus, her determination and her generous decision to let us all improvise almost all of our scenes before shooting. She encouraged and supported and guided us.

I felt that same creative/collaborative force working with her on the workshops of Love Loss and What I Wore a couple summers ago in the Hamptons. Nora's vision, humor, genius writing and directing, support and friendship will be missed.

She paved the way for many other talented women of vision.

Kathy Najimy, actress

The great thing about Nora was that she could make even the truth funny. Her fierceness and her wit will be much missed.

Erica Jong, writer

I first met Nora in 1987 when we worked together on a film called COOKIE based on a screenplay she had written with Alice Arlen. Nora had not yet directed a movie, but her reputation as a sharp wit was already widely known.  I remember being nervous before our first script meeting.  Worried I would be intimidated by her.  Worried she would make me feel dumb. Worried she would be a tough "broad".  She was nothing like I expected.  Yes she was smart, yes she was funny, yes she was opinionated -- but she was also earthy, collaborative, respectful and generous. 

I learned a few things from Nora. 

That you could be a serious writer (and director) and walk into a creative meeting wearing a fur coat, a little black dress with perfectly coiffed hair and manicured nails and be taken very seriously.

That you can age with style and grace and still be respected in an industry that worships youth. 

That you could be a hardworking filmmaker and still have the time and energy to be a devoted wife and mother.  I knew very few women in the film industry who were juggling work with a busy family life, so I paid particular attention to the way Nora did it.  I remember script meetings at her apartment at the Apthorp where her young sons wandered in and out of the room casually and even joined in whatever conversation we were having without it being a big deal.  This blending of work and family seemed natural and unpretentious. 

I remember script meetings where Nora cooked pasta and discussed story points, effortlessly doing both things well and simultaneously. (I think it was spaghetti carbonara --  she liked bacon.) 

And to this day I remember her practical advice about ordering white wine at a restaurant  -- don't go for the best, go for the coldest.

There are very few female directors who have been able to blend a family life with their professional and creative life with such ease. (BTW, she would have hated being referred to as a "female" director.  She never liked that qualifier.)  But I remember thinking at that time (25 years ago) that this seemingly effortless blending of one's personal and professional life is something I aspired to.  I don't have the same skill, wit and panache as Nora -- but it's wonderful to know that this is possible. 

I respected her greatly.

Susan Seidelman, director

I will always think of something Nora said this winter when she accepted an award at the DGA, "I became a director because it was so fucking hard to get a director."   When I last saw her I told her how meaningful that line was to me and she said "But isn't it TRUE!?"  Her ability to tell the truth while entertaining was what separated her from the pack. What an incredible inspiration she will be for women forever.

Rachael Horovitz, producer

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