On Monday, Nora Ephron surprised everyone (well, first Liz Smith did) by passing away at age 71 after a secret battle with leukemia.Ephron, who was born in Los Angeles to two playwright parents, later moved to New York City where she became a famed journalist, blogger, essayist, novelist, playwright, Oscar-nominated screenwriter and a movie director.
And she did it it all with such humour and seeming ease.
Even when discussing difficult topics such as death, Ephron did so with a realistic wit: “Everybody dies. There’s nothing you can do about it. Whether you eat six almonds a day. Whether or not you believe in God.”
Ephron is survived by her husband of 25 years, screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi, and two sons from her second husband, Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein.
When speaking to her alma matter Wellesley’s graduating class in 1996, Ephron told students, “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” And Ephron herself did just that.
It’s difficult to narrow down Ephron’s most memorable moments throughout her 50-year-long career because there are too many funny one-liners and poignant monologues to count, but here are some of our top picks from the woman who always said—or wrote—it best.
While most remember 'When Harry Met Sally' for Meg Ryan's table-pounding 'I'll have what she's having' fake orgasm scene, it is the below heartfelt ending to the film that showcases Ephron's realistic yet swoon-worthy romantic dialogue.
'I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.' --Harry, 'When Harry Met Sally'
In 1961, Ephron was an intern in the J.F.K. White House. In an essay for The New York Times, she recalls she was probably the only intern that President John F. Kennedy had never hit on.
'Which brings me to my crucial encounter with J.F.K., the one that no one at the Kennedy Library has come to ask me about. It was a Friday afternoon, and because I had nowhere to sit (see above) and nothing to do (ditto) I decided to go out and watch the president leave by helicopter for a weekend in Hyannisport. It was a beautiful day, and I stood out under the portico overlooking the Rose Garden, just outside the Oval Office. The helicopter landed. The noise was deafening. The wind from the chopper blades was blowing hard (although my permanent wave kept my hair stuck tight to my head). And then suddenly, instead of coming out of the living quarters, the president emerged from his office and walked right past me to get to the helicopter. He turned. He saw me. He recognised me. The noise was deafening but he spoke to me. I couldn't hear a thing, but I read his lips, and I'm pretty sure what he said was, ''How are you coming along?'' But I wasn't positive. So I replied as best I could. ''What?'' I said.
And that was it. He turned and went off to the helicopter and I went back to standing around the White House until the summer was over.'
Once again starring Ephron favourite Meg Ryan and this time co-starring Tom Hanks, 'Sleepless in Seattle' is the story of a widower (Hanks) who calls into a radio show and the woman (Ryan) who is moved after hearing his tale over the airwaves--and their eventual love story.
Ephron directed and co-wrote the film, for which she was nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar in 1994.
Watch the most memorable scene below.
1996: Ephron's commencement speech to Wellesley's graduating class. Ephron graduated from the college in 1962.
'Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim. Because you don't have the alibi my class had -- this is one of the great achievements and mixed blessings you inherit: unlike us, you can't say nobody told you there were other options. Your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead. 20-five years from now, you won't have as easy a time making excuses as my class did. You won't be able to blame the deans, or the culture, or anyone else: you will have no one to blame but yourselves. Whoa.'
'Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women. Thank you. Good luck. The first act of your life is over. Welcome to the best years of your lives'
To read the entire speech, click HERE.
Ephron reunited Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in 'You've Got Mail,' the sort of sequel to 'Sleepless in Seattle.'
The Ephron directed and produced film was a box office hit, giving hope to a post-divorce generation of people still looking for love in a new sphere--online.
This Ephron directed and produced film about famed chef Julia Childs earned Meryl Streep an Oscar nomination for portraying the American TV chef who rose to fame later in life.
The film's message seems on par with how Ephron lived her own life.
'What should I do, you think? I don't really want to go back into government work. Shouldn't I find something to do? Wives don't do anything here. That's not me, it's just not me,' Streep's character says in the film. Watch below.
By Nora Ephron
'I'd known since I was 5, when my parents forced me to move to California, that I was going to live in New York eventually and that everything in between was just a horrible intermission. I'd spent those sixteen years imagining what New York was going to be like. I thought it was going to be the most exciting, magical, fraught-with-possibility place that you could ever live in; a place where if you really wanted something, you might be able to get it; a place where I'd be surrounded by people I was dying to be with. And I turned out to be right.'
A year after this essay was published, it inspired this journalist to move from Los Angeles to New York City.
Ephron was the director, author and editor-at-large of Huff Po's Divorce Section.
'Marriages come and go, but divorce is forever.' --Tagline for the Divorce section, written by Ephron.
'The most important thing about me, for quite a long chunk of my life, was that I was divorced. Even after I was no longer divorced but remarried, this was true. I have now been married to my third husband for more than 20 years. But when you've had children with someone you're divorced from, divorce defines everything; it's the lurking fact, a slice of anger in the pie of your brain.'
'For many years I was in love with journalism,' she wrote. 'I loved the pack. I loved smoking and drinking Scotch and playing dollar poker. I didn't know much about anything, and I was in a profession where you didn't have to. I loved the deadlines. I loved the speed. I loved that you wrapped the fish.'
'I guess I've always been a food obsessive, and it has gotten worse the older I've gotten.' --Gourmet, August 2009'Every time I'm forced to watch them eat egg-white omelettes, I feel bad for them. In the first place, egg-white omelettes are tasteless. In the second place, the people who eat them think they are doing something virtuous when they are instead merely misinformed.' --Huffington Post, October 2007
'Are we really all going to spend our last years avoiding bread, especially now that bread in American is so unbelievable delicious? And what about chocolate?' --I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman
'If there is a Nora Ephron signature anything it is that there's slightly too much food. I have a friend whose mantra is: You must choose. And I believe the exact opposite: I think you should always have at least four desserts that are kind of fighting with each other.' --Interview with Epicurious
'I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.' --Heartburn
'Whenever I get married, I start buying Gourmet magazine. I think of it as my own personal bride's disease.' --Crazy Salad Plus Nine
'Everybody dies, there's no avoiding it and I do not believe for one second that butter is the cause of anyone's death. Overeating may be, but not butter, please. I just feel bad for people who make that mistake. By the way the same thing is true of olive oil. What difference could it possibly make if there's a little olive oil in your salad dressing? It does not take one day off your life.' --Newsweek, August 2009
'You do get to a certain point in life where you have to realistically, I think, understand that the days are getting shorter, and you can't put things off thinking you'll get to them someday. If you really want to do them, you better do them. There are simply too many people getting sick, and sooner or later you will. So I'm very much a believer in knowing what it is that you love doing so you can do a great deal of it.'
'But (my friend) Judy was dying of throat cancer, and she said, 'I can't even have my last meal.' And that's what you have to know is, if you're serious about it, have it now,' Ephron says. 'Have it tonight, have it all the time, so that when you're lying on your deathbed you're not thinking, 'Oh I should have had more Nate & Al's hot dogs.''
'Everybody dies. There's nothing you can do about it. Whether you eat six almonds a day. Whether or not you believe in God.'
Today, @EsquireMag is asking followers to tweet in their favourite, funny Nora Ephron lines. There are some gems worth reading.
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