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'Sleepless' filmmaker Ephron dies


Author, screenwriter and director Nora Ephron who has died aged 71 (AP)

Author, screenwriter and director Nora Ephron who has died aged 71 (AP)

Author, screenwriter and director Nora Ephron who has died aged 71 (AP)

Nora Ephron, the author and filmmaker has died of leukaemia aged 71.

Born into a family of screenwriters, she was a top journalist in her 20s and 30s, then a best-selling author and successful director.

Ephron was among the most quotable and influential writers of her generation. She wrote and directed such favourites as Julie & Julia and Sleepless in Seattle, and her books included the novel Heartburn, a brutal roman a clef about her marriage to Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein; and the popular essay collections I Feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing.

She was tough on others - Bernstein's marital transgressions were immortalised by the spouse in Heartburn, a man "capable of having sex with a Venetian blind" - and relentless about herself.

She wrote openly about her difficult childhood, her failed relationships, her doubts about her physical appearance and the hated intrusion of age.

"We all look good for our age. Except for our necks," she wrote in the title piece from I Feel Bad About My Neck, published in 2006.

Even within the smart-talking axis of New York-Washington-Los Angeles, no one bettered Ephron, slender and dark-haired and armed with a killer smile. Friends from Mike Nichols and Meryl Streep to Calvin Trillin and Pete Hamill adored her for her wisdom, her loyalty and turns of phrase.

As a screenwriter, Ephron was nominated three times for Academy Awards, for Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally ... and Sleepless in Seattle, and was the rare woman to write, direct and produce Hollywood movies.

Meg Ryan was among the many actresses who said they loved working with Ephron because she understood them so much better than did her male peers.

Ephron was married three times: to Dan Greenburg, Bernstein and, quite happily, to Nicholas Pileggi, who survives her and whose book Wiseguys was adapted into the Martin Scorsese film Goodfellas.