When Nora Ephron died at the age of 71 in 2012, the world lost one of its great heroines. Thankfully, Ephron left behind a body of work spanning four decades, and a large chunk of it has been collected into the book The Most of Nora Ephron, out today.
Paging through the 500-plus page tome—which includes her journalistic work and essays, in addition to the novel Heartburn, the play Lucky Guy, and the script for When Harry Met Sally…—we were reminded what a force the writer-director was (and felt a bit envious of her prolific career!). Here are five reasons we want to be like Nora Ephron when we grow up:
1. She was a Jane of All Trades…
…Or at least the writerly ones. How’s this for résumé fodder: a reporter at the New York Post, a columnist for Esquire, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally…, and Sleepless in Seattle; Tony-nominated playwright of Lucky Guy; author of Heartburn; and editor-at-large for the Huffington Post. Oh, and did we forget to mention she was one hell of a movie director, too?
2. She didn’t take herself too seriously.
You’d think with all of her accomplishments, Ephron would have been toting around a pretty sizable head. But in fact, she’d be the first to tell you she feels bad about her neck. Which she did. In an essay titled “I Feel Bad About My Neck” (included in The Most).
“You can put makeup on your face and concealer under your eyes and dye on your hair, you can shoot collagen and Botox and Restylane into your wrinkles and creases, but short of surgery, there’s not a damn thing you can do about a neck,” Ephron wrote. “The neck is a dead giveaway. Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth. You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn’t have to if it had a neck.”
3. She was ballsy.
She may have been self-deprecating, but she was no doormat. When Ephron’s marriage to journalist Carl Bernstein ended after he had an affair with one of their mutual friends, an inspired Ephron penned the roman à clef Heartburn, centering around a writer married to an unfaithful political journalist. (Sound familiar?) Ephron also went on to write the screenplay for the 1986 film, starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. Sweet revenge, indeed.
4. She was a not-so-secret sleuther.
Speaking of that marriage to Bernstein…
The country was obsessed for the better part of three decades with the true identity of Woodward and Bernstein’s infamous Watergate source, dubbed “Deep Throat” in the 1974 book All the President’s Men. Speculation over the shadowy figure ran rampant, with everyone from Gerald R. Ford to Diane Sawyer considered suspects. Bernstein never revealed the truth to Ephron, but she figured it out nonetheless, long before former FBI agent Mark Felt revealed himself in Vanity Fair. Writing for the Huffington Post in 2005, she mused, “For many years, I have lived with the secret of Deep Throat’s identity. It has been hell, and I have dealt with the situation by telling pretty much anyone who asked me, including total strangers, who Deep Throat was. Not for nothing is indiscretion my middle name.”
5. She gave good advice.
In addition to the oft-quoted line at the top (delivered during her 1996 commencement address at Wellesley College), Ephron was a master of pithy prescriptions. A sampling from “What I Wish I’d Known”:
“There’s no point in making piecrust from scratch.”
“You can order more than one dessert.”
“There are no secrets.”
“At the age of fifty-five you will get a saggy roll just above your waist even if you are painfully thin.”
“This saggy roll just above your waist will be especially visible from the back and will force you to reevaluate half the clothes in your closet, especially the white shirts.”
Yep, we’ll have what she’s having.
What’s your favorite contribution from Ms. Ephron?