— June 27, 2012 —
A step by step guide to highlights across fashion, art and culture
Nora Ephron and fellow comedic master Woody Allen Who? Nora Ephron, celebrated Hollywood screenwriter and director, has died from leukemia, aged 71. Responsible for such modern-day classics as When Harry met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and, most recently, Julie and Julia, Ephron was a sharp-witted woman synonymous with the romantic comedy genre at its most entertaining and authentic.
What? Interestingly, Ephron did not enter the world of Hollywood until she was “well into [her] thirties”, having worked as a writer for publications including Newsweek and Esquire. Yet her induction to screenwriting was surprisingly simple: “Someone came to me with the idea of writing a screenplay, and I thought, ‘Well, why not?’” She wrote her first script in 1983 – for Silkwood, the applauded drama featuring Meryl Streep – and didn’t look back. Her great talent lay in uncovering the hidden truths and amusements that underscore everyday life, whether parodying consumerism: "The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee... So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self..."; or voicing the woman's perspective – most memorably on faked orgasms – long before the days of Sex and the City or Bridesmaids, for which she clearly paved the way.
"Ephron's great talent lay in uncovering the hidden truths and amusements that underscore everyday life..."
Why? It is for these reasons that, despite her lack of Oscar recognition (she was a triple nominee for the Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay but never won), few can dispute the great legacy that Ephron leaves behind. She was a successful woman in Hollywood at a time when they were few and far between; and importantly she was one of the first to create dynamic female characters. Where writing contemporary Woody Allen created roles defined by neuroses and snappy oneliners, Ephron's women were complete in all their tarnished glory: "I try to write parts for women that are as complicated and interesting as women actually are."
On her most valued piece of advice, which in itself speaks volumes of her very real, and winning, approach to comedy, Ephron once divulged: “My mother wasn't one of those mothers who went, ‘Oh honey, tell me what happened to you at school. What did the bad girls do to you?’ No. She just would say, ‘Oh well, everything is copy.’ I think she basically taught us a very fundamental rule of humour…which is that if you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you, but if you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it's your joke, and you're the hero of the joke. It basically is the greatest lesson I think you can ever give anyone.”
Nora Ephron was born on May 19, 1941 and died on June 26, 2012 in New York City.
Text by Daisy Woodward