10 Things You Never Knew about Nora

Happy birthday to the legendary writer/director Nora Ephron!  Today, we celebrate her life and the inspirational work she left behind. Her wit and humorous take on the intricacies of romance have made us laugh and made her a groundbreaker for women in film.  Best known for writing When Harry Met Sally, Nora also had a pretty interesting adolescence and a motivational journey from the newsroom to the movie set. Here's a few fun facts you may not have known about the late and great Nora Ephron. And watch her exclusive MAKERS interviews to hear her story in her own words.


Ten Things You Never Knew about Nora

1.  Nora Ephron was raised by a working mother who co-wrote screenplays with her father. 

2.  Nora's mother worked and demanded that she and her sisters aspire to do the same in an era when most moms were housewives. 

3.  One of Ephron's first stories was called "A Few Words about Breasts" for Esquire Magazine, about the difficulties of growing up with small breasts. 

4.  When she started out in journalism at NewsWeek, Ephron was hired as a "Handmaiden" to assist the all-male writing staff.  

5.  Nora used the experience of her husband's infidelity with their mutual friend and the painful ensuing divorce (during which she was pregnant with their second child) to write her first best-selling novel, Heartburn

6.  She believes the fake orgasm scene in her film When Harry Met Sally is one of the greatest movie scenes of all time. 

7.  She advises aspiring writers to work for a newspaper, because it gives writers the chance to cover and experience different pieces of history. 

8.  Nora was one of the first successful female directors to make box office hits, like When Harry Met Sally, You've Got Mail, and Sleepless in Seattle

9.  In her last year of life, she developed a friendship with Girls writer Lena Dunham, who names Nora as a huge influence and inspiration in her life and career.  Dunham wrote a piece in the New Yorker as a tribute to the writer/director when she died.  

10.  In her honor, the Tribeca Film Festival awards a Nora Ephron Prize for "a woman writer or director with a distinctive voice" every year. 


Nora Ephron was born May 19, 1941 in New York City. She had three younger sisters, Delia, Amy, and Hallie and they grew up in Los Angeles, as their parents worked as film and playwrites. 

Growing up, Nora remembered her mother as one of the only women who worked.  Phoebe Ephron was a screenwriter and encouraged all of her daughters to aspire to have careers. 

After graduating from Wellesley College, Nora moved to New York City to become a journalist. She worked at Newsweek as a handmaiden, assisting the male staff writers. All women were placed in this role until they were allowed to be research assistants.

By the early 1970s, Nora had made a name for herself by writing about the women's movement and a column in Esquire.  Here, Nora is pictured contributing at the 1972 Women in Literature Conference.    Photo: Getty Images

After finding out her husband was cheating on her with a friend while she was pregnant with their second child, Nora turned her pain into profit and wrote her first best-selling novel, Heartburn.  The book was turned into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, for which Ephron also wrote the screenplay. 

Nora's first Academy Award nomination came for her screenplay Silkwood, which also starred Meryl Streep.  The film also received Oscar nominations for Best Actress (Meryl Streep), Best Supporting Actress (Cher), and Best Director (Mike Nichols).  

Ephron on set in the director's seat. 

In 1989 Ephron's When Harry Met Sally gained fame and earned her a British Academy Film Award, another Oscar nomination and a Writers Guild of America Award.  Ephron loved the popularity of fake orgasm scene, pictured here. 

Ephron worked with Tom Hanks on the set of You've Got Mail.

Ephron posed with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan at the New York premiere of You've Got Mail.   Photo: Getty images

Ephron gave the commencement speech at her alma mater, Wellesley College, in 1996.    Photo: Getty Images

Ephron wrote and directed her last film, Julia & Julia, in 2009.    Photo: Getty Images

At TechCrunch's 2011 Disrupt Conference, Ephron interviewed Arianna Huffington and NYU professor Jay Rosen on the future of journalism in the digital age.   Photo: Getty Images

The year before her death, Ephron was awarded the Directors Guild of America Filmmaker Award to honor her career as a director, journalist, novelist, playwriter and screenwriter.  She posed with friend Meryl Streep after the show, award in hand.    Photo: Getty Images