Hollywood stars have been paying tribute to the wisdom and wit of their friend and colleague the film-maker Nora Ephron, the screenwriter behind When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, who has died at the age of 71.
Billy Crystal, who starred with Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, told the Huffington Post: "She was a brilliant writer and humorist. Being her Harry to Meg's Sally will always have a special place in my heart. I was very lucky to get to say her words." Ephron died on Tuesday after suffering complications from the blood disorder myelodysplasia, with which she was diagnosed six years ago.
Having begun a journalistic career as a reporter at the New York Post in the 1960s, she moved into scriptwriting after working on a screenplay for All the President's Men, based on the book co-written by her then husband, Carl Bernstein.
Ephron subsequently became a pioneering writer-director, battling film industry sexism in a heavily male-dominated environment. Her debut script, for the nuclear cover-up film Silkwood, earned her an Oscar nomination along with its co-writer Alice Arlen, but it was untypical of the work she would go on to create.
In 1989 the Rob Reiner-directed romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally … became a major hit and, as well as gaining Ephron another Oscar nomination, secured her reputation as a crafter of sophisticated relationship movies in the Woody Allen vein, allowing her to move into the director's chair. Ephron would successfully exploit the genre again with Sleepless in Seattle, a smart commentary on the romantic comedy itself, and You've Got Mail, an internet-era reworking of the classic romcom The Shop Around the Corner.
Despite a number of directorial disappointments, including the 1994 comedy Mixed Nuts and the film version of TV series Bewitched, Ephron reunited with her Silkwood star Meryl Streep for what would turn out to be her final film, the well-received Julie & Julia, a biopic of US cookery expert Julia Child. At the time of her death Ephron was married to writer Nicholas Pileggi, her third husband, best known for his Martin Scorsese collaborations Goodfellas and Casino.
Her second marriage, to Bernstein, ended in 1979 after she discovered his extra-marital affair with James Callaghan's daughter Margaret Jay, wife of the British ambassador to the United States.
Other luminaries queued up to offer their tributes. Streep emailed the New York Times to say: "Nora just looked at every situation and cocked her head and thought, 'Hmmmm, how can I make this more fun?' You could call on her for anything: doctors, restaurants, recipes, speeches, or just a few jokes, and we all did it, constantly. She was an expert in all the departments of living well."
Tom Hanks, star of Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail, told E! News: "Nora Ephron was a journalist/artist who knew what was important to know; how things really worked, what was worthwhile, who was fascinating and why. At a dinner table and on a film set she lifted us all with wisdom and wit mixed with love for us and love for life."
On Twitter Bette Midler wrote: "Nora Ephron. The Hostess with the Mostest on the Ball. A brilliant soul, and we will all miss her so", comedian Sarah Silverman said: "I just heard about Nora Ephron. I'm so sad. A great & prolific writer, a warm & kind soul. Gone just like that", while Steve Martin tweeted: "She was the one you wanted to read, to listen to, to be in the company of. Nora Ephron. Incomparable wit; delightful friend. Sadness reigns."
In recent years Ephron had become an enthusiastic blogger for the Huffington Post. Its founder Arianna Huffington wrote on the site: "Professionally, her legacy will be that of an exceptionally gifted and versatile artist who could do it all, and do it all incredibly well. Personally, she'll be cherished as a wife and mother, and a devoted, giving, treasured – and irreplaceable – friend."
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