Nora Ephron has died. This took me by surprise. Last summer,the film club I advise had been trying to get her to come to our school and give an assembly. It seemed only right at an all girls school to have a woman director of stature come in. We had heard nothing back from her all last summer. We heard nothing during the fall during our follow up requests. Finally we got someone else to come, a male filmmaker who was known for his action movies, a screenwriter and director whose new project was a heist film involving young bicycle messengers in Manhattan. It stars David Gordon Levitt.
Just as we were confirming that David Koepp, director of Premium Rush, could come, we heard back from Ephron. It was November, around the time of Thanksgiving. She said, was the date still open. Or how about the club just come over to her house, which we did.
During the course of our conversation, we learned that to write screenplays for movies, first you should learn something about life, and journalism is not a bad way to begin. She learned how to write a script by typing out William Goldman’s script for All the President‘s Men. She and her then husband Carl Bernstein were trying to improve it because they were not quite happy with it. Since she could type, she was delegated the role of creating the new typescript which entailed typing the old one.
Not a bad way to learn to write.
Ephron said that she knew someone who retyped all of Moby Dick he was so taken with it, and wanted to own the words of the great Melville.
So Ephron gave credit to William Goldman as the first screenwriter she learned from because she typed his screenplay.
She also said that her favorite movie was Casablanca.
When asked what type of cinematographer she preferred, she said that she had no use for cinematographers who use lots of helicopters to get the action shots. She needed a cameraman who could make a middle aged woman not look like she needed a face lift. The film club had coincidentally that same day attended the assembly with David Koepp who showed a preview of his new movie with David Gordon Levitt. I think at least one helicopter was involved, and there were no middle aged women.
I love this clip of Ephron discussing the virtues of Meryl Streep’s acting when Streep was being honored by the American Film Institute. Streep benefited greatly from Ephron’s screenplays. So did countless others.