When writer/director Nora Ephron died of leukemia on June 26, 2012, millions of fans of her witty books and movies felt they had lost a friend. An avid theatergoer, Ephron penned the short-lived 2002 Broadway play Imaginary Friends before teaming up with her sister Delia and producer Daryl Roth on the long-running dramedy Love, Loss and What I Wore. As Ephron’s final play, Lucky Guy begins previews at the Broadhurst Theatre (starring her film muse Tom Hanks), Roth assembled a reunion of Love, Loss leading ladies at Sardi’s to share their memories of collaboration and friendship. First up in Broadway.com's exclusive week-long series is Love, Loss original cast member Rosie O’Donnell, who played Meg Ryan’s best pal in Ephron’s 1993 breakout hit Sleepless in Seattle.
When Rosie Met Nora
“I met Nora 20 years ago when I auditioned for Sleepless in Seattle at her apartment. A League of Their Own had not come out yet; I was a standup comic, but not a lot of people knew me. I waited in the foyer for about half an hour, and there were books everywhere, so I looked at what she was reading. When Nora called me into her kitchen, I said, ‘I can’t believe that I am talking to you.’ I told her everything I knew about what her parents [writers Henry and Phoebe Ephron] had done, and what she and Delia had done. Then I read the scene, and she pressed her hands together and said, ‘Well!’ She went into the other room and came back with pages that Delia had just sent, and I read those. Then she asked me about my childhood. When I left, I called my agent and said, ‘I got the part.’ My agent said, ‘You don’t know that! It was the first reading.’ I said, ‘I know I got the part because I felt her.’ And sure enough, I did. We became close, and she got me an apartment in her building. She took me into the family. ”
Summer in the Hamptons
“When I had just had Parker [O’Donnell’s oldest child, now 17], Nora had me out to East Hampton for the summer. I felt like the kid from the Fresh Air Fund. Madeleine Albright is at the table, and the editor of The Washington Post, and I’m wearing my new Gap khakis. We went to play tennis with Alan Alda’s wife, and I didn’t have the ‘whites.’ It never got any better! I went over to the Spielberg compound, and when I got back I could not shut up, it was so out my realm of reality: 97 nannies, a stable, Steven talking to Billy Crystal. Nora said, ‘Give me the baby! You’ve gotta go upstairs and write this down.’ She encouraged me to write and made me believe I was capable. People in my family could always tell when I was on the phone with Nora because I would try to kick it up a notch. To make her laugh was the best. She was a genius, and she was tough. People were afraid of her, but I never was, maybe because I’m tough and people are afraid of me. I always felt her smooshy heart.”
A Dog’s Life
“I got Nora a dog. I had puppies before I had my son, and she would always say, ‘I can’t believe how much you love this puppy.’ I said, ‘You would love a dog, too.’ She said, ‘I don’t like dogs, I’ll never have a dog,’ but every time she came over, she would play with my puppy. There used to be a dog store on 72nd Street, and one day I stopped on the way home and bought a puppy that looked just like mine. Nora’s son Jacob [Bernstein] would often come over to my apartment to play with Parker, and I brought the dog in and said, ‘Jacob, this is for you to take home. Tell your mom that it’s from me, and if she doesn’t like it, I’ll keep it.’ Well, they kept that dog, Lucy, for 10 years and it was [Ephron’s husband Nicholas Pileggi]’s constant companion. He loved that dog! I still can’t believe that Nora is gone. When I wanted to know what to wear, I would call her. Who do I call now? Even watching the Oscars—she looked so alive in the [In Memoriam] picture, in that leather jacket she wore. I thought, how is this possible? She took everyone she cared about into her heart and shared everything she knew.”
For more “Celebrating Nora” memories, click here.