Nora Ephron, writer, screenwriter and director

Nora Ephron, the celebrated novelist and essayist who had a successful film writing career veer into a career as a director, died Tuesday night in Manhattan. Her death was officially attributed to pneumonia, but it was revealed she had been battling acute myeloid leukemia for several years. She was 71. Ephron’s most popular nods as director were “Sleepless in Seattle,” “You’ve Got Mail” (both starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan) and 2009’s “Julie and Julia,” for which she received her highest critical marks. Ephron was first and foremost a writer of highest quality. She  was born to parents who were successful screenwriters and all of her siblings also chose careers in writing. Following her graduation from Wellsley College in 1962, she had a brief stint as an intern at the Kennedy White House. She soon began work at Newsweek magazine and became a reporter for the New York Post. Ephron later was a columnist for both Esquire and New York magazines. She developed a style which was self-deprecating, yet remarkably lucid and frank. She married her first husband Peter Goldman in 1967 and, following her divorce in 1976, married another writer, her second husband, Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporter who broke the story of the Watergate scandal. With her husband’s encouragement she was recruited to help rewrite the screenplay of Bernstein and Bob Woodward’s “All the President’s Men.” Although her version was not the final one used, her work did get her notice and generated several offers for screenwriting. In 1979, while pregnant and the mother of an infant, she discovered Bernstein was having an affair. A thinly-veiled novel of infidelity, “Heartburn,” was the result and it became a runaway best seller and was later transformed into a film starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. Her 1983 screenwriting for “Silkwood,” a film about an ill-fated whistle blower was nominated for an Academy Award and her 1989 film “When Harry Met Sally” starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan firmly established her as a latter-day screwball comedy and romantic film writer. The biggest change to her career occurred with her directorial debut in “Sleepless in Seattle” and her followup film “You’ve Got Mail,” both of which she also shared screenwriting credits. Ephron maintained a close relationship with Streep since the filming of  “Silkwood” and that friendship continued with her last film “Julie and Julia,” in which Streep portrayed the legendary chef Julia Child. Following her divorce from Bernstein, Ephron married writer Nicolas Pileggi in 1987 with whom she lived until her death. In recent years she began writing a blog for The Huffington Post website. Apart from Pileggi, she is survived by her sons Jacob, a writer, and Max Bernstein, a rock musician; three sisters – Amy, Delia and Hallie Ephron, all of whom are significant writers.

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