Thursday, December 16, 2010

Nora Ephron confesses to not writing the great lines

Nora Ephron, a triple nominee for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for "Silkwood", "When Harry Met Sally", and "Sleepless in Seattle", spoke at the Free Library yesterday. She was here to publicize her latest collection of essays on aging, "I Remember Nothing", which is a sequel to her 2006 bestseller "I Hate My Neck".
Since she wrote the screenplay for "When Harry Met Sally", Ephron, age 69, has been a cultural touchstone. The petite, elfin author wants us to be comfortable, laugh, and even embrace growing older. The Jewish Ephron applies her real religion, Get Over It, to old age.
The director of “Julie and Julia” jokes about the senior moment. She has rechristening it the much hipper sounding "Google Moment”. Recalling the awkwardness of forgetting someone’s name, the author thinks "name tags should be required for people over 40." Like the rest of us of a certain age, Ephron takes “so many vitamins in the morning that she can hardly eat breakfast” and “doesn’t know the people in People Magazine. “
While a proud owner of the iPhone, Kindle, and $ 4.99 Angry Bird Video game, Ephron, an early blogger, wants seniors to know that it is okay to give up on keeping up with technology. “Twitter was where I drew the line.”
She urges people to confront death head on by listing things that they will miss and those they will not. Ephron recommends, “Don’t wait. Partake in what you enjoy now.” Her list of things she would miss includes her children and bacon while Clarence Thomas is one of the things she will not miss.
The best selling author told the audience that he genesis of one of the most famous scenes in cinema history-Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm scene in “When Harry Met Sally”- was a question by director Carl Reiner. He asked, “Since I have told you everything about men, tell me one secret of women.”
Ephron uttered three words, “Women Fake Orgasm”.
Reiner said, “Not with me”
When Ephron insisted it included him, Reiner ran and gathered to his office the women that worked in CastleRock Entertainment. Scared witless at being called to his office, they still all shook their head yes when asked by Reiner if they ever faked orgasms.
Although it is credited to her, Ephron confessed that she did not write one of the most acclaimed lines of that scene - “I’ll have what she is having.” She admitted, "Meg Ryan suggested that the scene take place in a restaurant. Billy Crystal actually wrote the line.”
The screenwriter is humble about the success that she has enjoyed in the movies and credited the actors with improving words. “It is the actors that take my words and bring them to life on the screen. “Meg Ryan, who I think is the greatest comedienne of her generation, took the hairspray out of her purse and started spraying it on her own in the car scene. Billy Crystal, on his own initiative spit the grapes seeds out in the same scene. Meryl Streep made the decision to pin a red heart on herself for the Valentine’s Day dinner in “Julie and Julia. Tom Hanks wrote the speech in “Sleepless in Seattle” about the Dirty Dozen being the ultimate male film," recalled Ephron.
She does regret that “the phrase Chick lit in the Hanks’ scene now is shorthand for denigrating films about women.”
One of the essays in her new book, "The D Word" has ignited a feud with the actor Alec Baldwin. Thirty years after her divorce, the author of “Heartburn” once again slices and dices her ex husband Carl Bernstein, who must be wondering if her multi media extravaganza of his betrayal is ever going to end. Baldwin, who had his own bitter divorce from actress Kim Basinger, castigated her and suggested, “Mum’s the word for a smart divorcee."
Ephron, in an understatement, defended herself by saying, "I did have a lucrative divorce. “
While her life with Bernstein is an open book, the author, who is a scrabble addict that limits herself to two games daily, is more discrete about her grown children. "I just hope I taught them the right fork to eat salad with," is all the writer would say about them.
The one man that Ephron does fear is Bill Maher, host of “Real Time with Bill Maher”. She explained her hesitation to appear on his show, “He is so brilliant and fast. I did not think that I could keep up.”
Ephron, who made her journalist mark writing about her breasts in Esquire Magazine, discarded concerns about the lack of women directors in Hollywood. She said, "What about the women in Africa?". Similarly, she dismissed questions about the preference of the Academy for drama not comedy writing. The three- time Oscar nominee answered, “There is a war in Afghanistan.”
In a poignant moment, the successful writer and director fretted about her movies that flopped such as "Mixed Nuts." “They take up so much more space in your head. The whole crew spends a year and a half of their life working on your vision. She has “learned when the crew tells you that you are making the funniest movie ever, you probably aren’t.”

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