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7 Behind-The-Scenes Facts about Nora Ephron's Rom-Coms You Might Not Know

Titi Dokubo
May 19, 2022
10:45 A.M.
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Nora Ephron may not have invented romantic comedies, but she changed the game! The pioneering writer-director went the extra mile behind the scenes to bring her scripts to life. Here are some behind-the-scenes facts you may not know.


Nora Ephron was born into a family of writers on May 19, 1941, and was gifted with a sharp wit. The writer became known as an essayist in 1970 after her collected articles were published in "Wallflower at the Orgy."

In 1983, she released her first novel "Heartburn" after drawing inspiration from the crash of her second marriage. That same year, she transitioned to screenwriting.

Nora Ephron at a reception where Columbia Pictures made donations to the Smithsonian National Museum Of American History on July 29, 2009 | Source: Getty Images


The American author, playwright, and film director became known as one of her era's most successful filmmakers and was an Oscar-nominated screenwriter.

Ephron was labeled a practitioner of the New Journalism and is known for her movies such as "You've Got Mail," "Silkwood," "When Harry Met Sally...," "Julie & Julia," and more.

On June 26, 2012, Ephron died at 71 from pneumonia caused by acute myeloid leukemia. She is survived by her third husband, Nicholas Pileggi, and her two sons, Jacob and Max Bernstein, from her second marriage.

Nora Ephron at the Good Housekeeping's Shine On event celebrating 125 years of women making their mark on April 12, 2010 | Source: Getty Images



While being a great writer, Ephron gave room for others to make input. The famous line, "I'll have what she's having," in "When Harry Met Sally..." was not written by Ephron but was a team effort.

David S. Ward was the writer who worked on "Sleepless in Seattle" with Ephron. After changing the script so that Jonah called the radio show's therapist instead of his father, Ephron fought for him to have writing credits because his change saved the script.

Photo of Nora Ephron on May 5, 1978 | Source: Getty Images


Sally's order of apple pie à la mode served warm with ice cream on the side in "When Harry Met Sally..." was inspired by Ephron's love of pie. The director, Rob Reiner, revealed this fact in an interview.

The second movie Ephron ever directed was "Sleepless in Seattle." For this movie, her son, Jacob, wanted to meet Rosie O'Donnell's famous friend, Madonna, so he pushed for O'Donnell to be hired.

The climactic scene in "Sleepless in Seattle" took place at the top of the Empire State Building. However, that scene would not have happened because they weren't allowed inside. Fortunately, Ephron knew the owner's publicist, and he let them use it for six hours.


Nora Ephron at the Women in Film Holiday Luncheon on December 14, 1995 | Source: Getty Images

For "Sleepless in Seattle," Ephron was not initially convinced that Tom Hanks was fit for the role. However, after a sit-down with him, the sheer force of his personality convinced her that he was the leading man she needed.


Hanks went on to help her rewrite Sam's character because he told her that the initial character sounded too wimpy and his son's character had better lines. The resulting new script had a grumpier, funnier Sam.

Nora Ephron at the 2008 Public Theater gala & the opening night of "Shakespeare In The Park" on June 17, 2008 | Source: Getty Images



Ephron was described as one of the world's funniest feminists. In the late 1960s and 1970s, her work focused on sex and women. These works were later compiled into books like "Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women" and "Scribble Scribble."

She was concerned about the development of women and did not shy away from talking or writing about it. Ephron always told women to be the heroine of their lives and not the victim.

Ephron, who was honest about the aging process and even wrote about it, became an influence for many current successful female writers like Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham.