"Everything is Copy," a Candid Portrait of Beloved Author and Screenwriter Nora Ephron

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18 March 2016
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EVERYTHING IS COPY Nora Ephron: Scripted & Unscripted
Courtesy of HBO
“EVERYTHING IS COPY Nora Ephron: Scripted & Unscripted"
Premieres Monday, March 21 at 9 PM, exclusively on HBO
 
Written And Directed By Ephron’s Son, Jacob Bernstein,
Documentary Features Interviews With Mike Nichols, Tom Hanks, Delia Ephron,
David Remnick, Gay Talese, Steven Spielberg And Meryl Streep, Along With Dramatic Readings By Lena Dunham, Reese Witherspoon, Rita Wilson And Gaby Hoffmann

            “When you slip on the banana peel, people laugh at you. But when you tell people you slipped on the banana peel, it’s your laugh. So you become the hero, rather than the victim of the joke.”

            This was Nora Ephron’s philosophy, inherited from her own mother. She believed that being a writer meant turning the bad things that happen to you into comedy.

            Written and directed by her son, Jacob Bernstein, the candid portrait "EVERYTHING IS COPY Nora Ephron: Scripted & Unscripted" debuts Monday, March 21 (9:00-10:30 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.

           "EVERYTHING IS COPY Nora Ephron: Scripted & Unscripted" tracks Nora Ephron’s rise from the mailroom of Newsweek to a notable stint reporting for the New York Post, where she caught the eye of influential editors like Harold Hayes, Clay Felker and Helen Gurley Brown. Marked by biting honesty and intelligent humor, her incisive writing soon began appearing regularly in Esquire, New York Magazine, the New York Times and Cosmopolitan, winning devoted fans and foes alike. No one — including her parents, her former bosses, or, most famously, her spouses — was safe in her work.

 
 
            Born to Hollywood screenwriters, Ephron came of age in the golden years of print journalism, and went on to become one of America’s leading literary voices. “I think more than anybody I’ve ever known, she knew what she wanted and she went and got it...or went and did it, which is more to the point,” said her close friend, the late director Mike Nichols.

            "EVERYTHING IS COPY Nora Ephron: Scripted & Unscripted" features intimate interviews with many of the people closest to her, including her three sisters, Delia, Amy and Hallie Ephron, along with writers such as Gay Talese and Marie Brenner and film industry colleagues, among them Tom Hanks, Rob Reiner, Meg Ryan, Steven Spielberg and Meryl Streep.

            Ephron moved into screenwriting, working first for TV and then for feature films, where she became one of the industry’s most successful writer-directors. Her first Academy Award® nomination in the original screenplay category came for 1983’s “Silkwood,” followed by a second for 1989’s “When Harry Met Sally,” which remains a comedy benchmark. Ephron adapted the screenplay for 1986’s “Heartburn” from her own novel, based on the high-profile breakup of her marriage to celebrated journalist Carl Bernstein.

            She stepped behind the camera to direct for the first time on 1992’s “This Is My Life” and followed it up with “Sleepless in Seattle,” which resulted in her third Oscar® nomination for original screenplay. By 1998’s “You’ve Got Mail,” she had often been credited with revitalizing the romantic comedy genre.

            Ephron also directed 2009’s “Julie & Julia” and published a number of nonfiction collections, including “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” a best-selling compilation of astute essays on beauty and aging, many of which originated in The New Yorker and Vogue.

            Other interviewees in the film include childhood schoolmates and close colleagues from the entertainment industry and journalism, including: David Remnick, Marie Brenner, Richard Cohen, Barry Diller, Bryan Lourd, Lynda Obst, Amy Pascal, Barbara Walters and George C. Wolfe.

            Illuminating interviews with Dick Cavett and Charlie Rose reveal a smart, feisty woman unafraid to speak her mind as she juggled family with career and shapeshifted over time, morphing from cub reporter to gimlet-eyed critic to accomplished filmmaker, playwright and blogger.

            Ephron’s funny, probing essays are brought to life in dramatic readings by actresses Lena Dunham, Gaby Hoffman, Reese Witherspoon, Rita Wilson and Meg Ryan, all of whom regarded Ephron as a pioneer, mentor and friend.

            Ryan, Wilson and Hoffmann starred in some of Ephron’s best-known films. Ephron was developing a movie with Witherspoon when she died. And Dunham wrote about Ephron soon after in The New Yorker, later dedicating her book, “Not That Kind of Girl,” to her.

            “She was able to say, ‘I want all the things that women are supposed to want, and I also hate all the things women are supposed to want,’” observes Dunham.

            Believing that “writers are cannibals,” Ephron could be ruthless in her determination to tell the best story. Bernstein explores the line between professional ambition and personal loyalties, turning the camera on his own family to gain perspective. He seeks insights from his three aunts and sits down for a frank interview with his father, Carl Bernstein.

            He also paints a moving picture of Ephron’s third marriage to writer Nicholas Pileggi, a lasting relationship that fulfilled and nourished her. “Since Nick, almost everything changed…[she was] softer, less guarded, happy. You know that was a great love, and you felt it,” recalls Barry Diller, a friend since high school in Beverly Hills.

            In the end, having lived her life out loud, in print and on screen, Ephron kept quiet about the most profound crisis of her life. Diagnosed in 2006 with myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare blood disorder, she hid the details from many of her colleagues and friends, leading to shock and confusion, as well as grief, when she died in 2012 at age 71.

            “This is the most fascinating thing in the whole world,” says Meryl Streep. “Because she’s the one who said, ‘There is no privacy. Forget privacy!’”

 
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