Nora Ephron Is Alive, But Gravely Ill: ‘Things Are Not Good’

The "Sleepless in Seattle" auteur's health is rapidly deteriorating

Last Updated: June 26, 2012 @ 5:40 PM

Nora Ephron, the screenwriter and director behind "Sleepless in Seattle," "You've Got Mail" and "Julie & Julia" is gravely ill, her publisher's spokesman told TheWrap.

Getty ImagesNicholas Latimer, vice president and director of publicity at Random House, told TheWrap Ephron is still alive but in a weakened state.

"She is still very much alive," he told TheWrap. "[But] things are not good."

Reports began buzzing Tuesday afternoon that the 71-year-old — whose robust career spanned screenwriting, filmmaking, book-writing and reporting — was suffering from leukemia and near death after gossip columnist Liz Smith published a post, which has since been taken down, eulogizing her longtime friend.  

Ephron was born to Jewish parents in New York, but soon moved to Beverly Hills, where she and her sister Delia — with whom she co-wrote her hit Emerald City-set romantic comedy — grew up to be screenwriters.

But first, she returned to New York, where she impressed the editors of the New York Post with satirical jabs at the tabloid's columnists. There, she broke the story of Bob Dylan marrying Sara Lownds and became staple of the the 1960s "New Journalism" movement.

Also read: Directors Guild to Honor Nora Ephron, Sen. Patrick Leahy

Soon after, her bylines appeared in numerous publications, including New York magazine, Esquire and the New York Times Magazine.

After her first divorce, she married Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein in 1976, four years after he and Bob Woodward broke the Watergate Scandal story that unseated President Richard Nixon.

She helped her then-husband re-write much of William Goldman's script for "All the President's Men." Though her version of the script was not used, it landed her a screenwriting job on a television movie.

She became one of the few people to know the true identity of the reporters' source, "Deep Throat," and following a volatile divorce freely revealed his name: Mark Felt.

But her work on her husband's script helped elevate her reputation in the movie industry.

She garnered her first serious screenwriting success with her 1989 romantic comedy "When Harry Met Sally," which became an international hit. But her directing debut, "This Is My Life," was a box office flub.

However, she rebounded in 1993 with "Sleepless in Seattle," which she directed and co-wrote with her sister Delia, vaulting her to the top echelon of Hollywood's romantic comedy genre.

She continued making films until 2009's "Julie & Julia," for which she won best screenplay at the Writers Guild of America Awards.

Ephron also had a career in theater. Her play, "Imaginary Friends," appeared on Broadway in 2002 after premiering at the Old Globe theater in San Diego. The "play with music" by Marvin Hamlisch starred Cherry Jones as Mary McCarthy and Swoosie Kurtz as Lillian Hellman. It closed after only 76 performances.

She and her sister Delia collaborated on "Love, Loss and What I Wore," an off-Broadway hit based on the book by Ilene Beckerman. The show, which opened in 2009, had played 1,013 performances when it closed in March. The play featured a rotating cast of celebrity women reading monologues about clothes and relationships.

Ephron was working on a new play, "Lucky Guy," about the late tabloid newspaper columnist Mike McAlary, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998 for his coverage of the Abner Louima police brutality case. According to the New York Post, the play was set to star Tom Hanks, making his Broadway debut, and open in January 2013.

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