Oscar-nominated screenwriter Nora Ephron, known for romantic comedies When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, as well as books and essays, has died in New York after battling leukemia. She was 71.
Ephron, who had suffered from acute myeloid leukemia, died on Tuesday evening at New York’s Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center surrounded by her family, they said in a statement.
Reactions poured in from throughout the arts and entertainment community for the screenwriter who delighted millions with her flair for comedy, romance and the ability to tackle serious subjects with insight.
“She brought an awful lot of people a tremendous amount of joy. She will be sorely missed,” her publisher, Alfred Knopf, said in a statement.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called her death “a devastating one” for the city’s arts and cultural community, and the Los Angeles-based Directors Guild of America called her “an inspiration for women filmmakers when there were few.”
Ephron, who often parlayed her own love life into movies like Heartburn and gave her acerbic take on aging in the 2010 essay collection, I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections, had kept her illness largely private except for close friends and family.
The elegant Ephron, known for habitually dressing in black, urged aging friends and readers to make the most of their lives.
“You should eat delicious things while you can still eat them, go to wonderful places while you still can ... and not have evenings where you say to yourself: ‘What am I doing here? Why am I here? I am bored witless!’” she said.
She began her career as a journalist, but transitioned into movies, leaving behind a legacy of more than a dozen films, often featuring strong female characters, that she either wrote, produced or directed. She was nominated for three Academy Awards for When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and the drama Silkwood, in which Meryl Streep played an anti-nuclear activist.
Other romantic comedies included You’ve Got Mail, starring Meg Ryan, and her last film, Julie & Julia in 2009, which had Streep portraying the fearless celebrity cook Julia Child.