On this day in 2012, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Nora Ephron, whose credits include “Silkwood,” “When Harry Met Sally,” and “You’ve Got Mail,” dies at age 71 of complications from leukemia in New York City. Known for her sharp, witty writing style, Ephron was an accomplished writer, director and producer as well as a journalist, essayist, novelist and playwright.
Nora Louise Ephron was born in New York City on May 19, 1941, and raised in Beverly Hills, California. Her parents were Hollywood screenwriters whose credits include “There’s No Business Like Show Business” (1954) and “Carousel” (1956). After graduating from Wellesley College in 1962, Ephron began her career as a mail clerk at Newsweek magazine. She went on to work as a reporter for The New York Post before becoming a magazine journalist and essayist in the late 1960s.
She launched her movie career by co-writing the screenplay for “Silkwood” (1983), based on the life of whistle-blower Karen Silkwood (1946-74), who died under suspicious circumstances while investigating claims of wrongdoing at an Oklahoma plutonium plant where she had been employed. Ephron’s script earned her an Oscar nomination. Her next screenplay was for “Heartburn” (1986), which she adapted from her 1983 best-selling novel of the same name. The book was a roman a clef about the acrimonious breakup of her marriage to Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein. Ephron garnered her second Oscar nomination for best screenplay for the romantic comedy “When Harry Met Sally” (1989), the box-office hit starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan.
Ephron made her big-screen directorial debut with “This Is My Life” (1992), which she also co-wrote. The film flopped at the box office; however, her second directorial effort, the romantic comedy “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993), which she also co-wrote, was a commercial success. The film, which featured Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, earned Ephron her third Oscar nomination for best screenplay. Hanks and Ryan also starred in the romantic comedy “You’ve Got Mail” (1998), another box-office hit written and directed by Ephron. Her last film was “Julie & Julia” (2009), which she wrote and directed, about a blogger who makes all of chef Julia Child’s recipes from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Child was portrayed by Meryl Streep, who also starred in “Silkwood” and “Heartburn.”
In addition to her movies, Ephron penned such best-selling essay collections as “I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Reflections on Being a Woman” (2006) and “I Remember Nothing” (2010). With her sister Delia Ephron she wrote the play “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” (2008). At the time of her death, which was caused by pneumonia brought on by acute myeloid leukemia, Ephron had been married for more than two decades to author and screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi (“Goodfellas,” “Casino”).