For our second installment of posts dedicated to great directors, we’ve chosen to highlight the top five films from the late Nora Ephron. Ephron, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2006 and passed away earlier this summer at the age of 71, was a force of nature. Not only did she bring us classic stories like When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, she was also an accomplished journalist, essayist, playwright, producer, director and novelist.
So while we want to highlight her work as a director, arguably one of the best female directors of our time, her accomplishments as a writer in so many forms should be highly noted as well. Ephron’s fictional stories were often based on real life, often her own, and this is perhaps what makes them so timeless and relatable. Her ability to capture real life in this way was indeed a gift. She was a rare breed, an inspiration, and she will be sorely missed.
Silkwood – 1983
Her first screenplay, Silkwood, was based on the true story of Karen Silkwood, a woman he tried to expose the dangerous working conditions at the nuclear plant where she worked. Meryl Streep starred in the film as Karen Silkwood, a performance that earned her one of the first of many Oscar nominations for best actress. Ephron, along with co-writer Alice Arlen, was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Not bad for her first script.
When Harry Met Sally – 1989
This unforgettable story of best friends turned lovers originated from an interview Ephron did with director Rob Reiner after his divorce and subsequent return to single life. From this interview the character, Harry, was created. The film asks questions about relationships between men and women and whether or not we can ever really be “just friends” with someone of the opposite sex. This screenplay was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay.
Sleepless in Seattle – 1993
Ephron wrote and directed Sleepless in Seattle, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, a film inspired by the classic love story An Affair to Remember. The film shares the same theme song as Affair and incorporates several clips from the old classic into key scenes. It’s a story that examines the ‘love story’ motif and how it is portrayed in film. This screenplay marked yet another nomination for a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Ephron.
You’ve Got Mail – 1998
In yet another remake of sorts, Ephron wrote and directed the screenplay for You’ve Got Mail based on the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner, set in modern times, where snail mail has been replaced with e-mail, and big chained book stores threaten the existence of the smaller, privately owned, used bookstores. Once again, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan starred opposite each other as Austenian lovers.
Julie & Julia – 2009
Once again taking her inspiration from real life, Ephron’s Julie & Julia follows the lives of these two women, juxtaposing the stories of legendary chef, Julia Child’s with that of blogger and writer, Julie Powell, whose memoir inspired the screenplay. The film stars Meryl Streep as the charming Julia and Amy Adams as the neurotic, Julie. Streep was also nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of Julia Child. Julie & Julia was Nora Ephron’s last film.