Nora Ephron, the writer, producer and director of such American film classics as “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle,” died today. She was 71.
Ephron died in a New York City hospital after a long battle with leukemia and taxing chemotherapy treatment, friends of hers told ABC News.
Her family released this statement, “Nora Ephron passed away June 26, 2012 at 7:40 p.m. at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center surrounded by her family. The cause of death was acute myeloid leukemia. She was 71. Donations can be made in her honor to The Public Theater and The Motion Picture and Television Fund. We thank you all for your thoughts.”
The three-time Academy Award nominee was a prolific author, screenwriter, playwright and director who was a pioneer in Hollywood, where she was one of the first women to write and direct her own films. She contributed essays and reporting to outlets including the New York Times and the Huffington Post, for which she last wrote a story in June 2011.
Numerous notables, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, are mourning Ephron’s passing.
“The loss of Nora Ephron is a devastating one for New York City’s arts and cultural community,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “From her earliest days at New York City’s newspapers to her biggest Hollywood successes, Nora always loved a good New York story, and she could tell them like no one else.”
Ephron had most recently written the play “Lucky Guy,” a drama based on the life of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mike McAlary, which was expected to open on Broadway in 2013 with Tom Hanks as its star.
Ephron left an indelible mark on the field of romantic comedy. Icons like Hanks, Meryl Streep, and Meg Ryan, often fronted her films. Streep starred in Ephron’s first hit, 1983’s “Silkwood,” which was directed by Mike Nichols and earned Ephron her first Oscar nomination for screenwriting.
The pair worked together again on Ephron’s autobiographical film “Heartburn” in 1986, which was based on her tumultuous relationship with her second husband, journalist Carl Bernstein. Bernstein, who helped crack the Watergate story open at the Washington Post in the early 1970s, reportedly cheated on Ephron during their marriage, which ended in divorce. The couple had two sons before they split, Jacob, now a journalist, and Max, a musician.
Ephron then went on to get two more Oscar nominations for the hit films “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle.”
A native New Yorker, Ephron was raised by screenwriters in Beverly Hills, Calif. before attending Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She interned for President John F. Kennedy in the White House after college, but soon decided to pursue journalism rather than politics.
“I realized to my sadness that I was probably the only person in the entire Kennedy White House that JFK had not made a pass at,” Ephron wrote in her 2006 book, “I Feel Bad About My Neck.” “I like to think it was because I had a really bad permanent wave. But I don’t know. After I was an intern for JFK, it was very clear to me that Washington was probably not a great place for women.”
Ephron made many contributions to American film in the past three decades, including “Michael,” “You’ve Got Mail,” and, most recently, “Julie and Julia,” but she was also a bestselling author and, late in life, a playwright.
Ephron’s 2006 collection of essays about aging, “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” was a New York Times bestseller, and was followed up by her 2010 collection, “I Remember Nothing.” She co-authored a hit Off Broadway play, “Love, Loss, and What I Wore,” with her sister Delia Ephron.
Ephron is survived by her sister, her sons, and her filmmaker husband Nicholas Pileggi, whom she married in 1987.