When writer/director Nora Ephron died of leukemia on June 26, 2012, millions of fans of her witty books and movies felt that they had lost a friend. Ephron penned the short-lived 2002 Broadway play Imaginary Friends before teaming up with her sister Delia and producer Daryl Roth on the smash-hit dramedy Love, Loss and What I Wore. As Ephron’s final play, Lucky Guy, begins previews at the Broadhurst Theatre (starring her frequent movie collaborator Tom Hanks), Roth assembled a reunion of Love, Loss leading ladies to share their memories of collaboration and friendship. In the final part of our week-long series, Tony-winning producer Roth reveals the neighborly genesis of Love, Loss, and original cast member Samantha Bee of The Daily Show (responding to Broadway.com via e-mail) explains why Ephron was “the real deal.”
Let’s Put on a Show
“Love, Loss started in East Hampton. Nora and Nick [Pileggi, Ephron’s husband] lived next door, and she walked over one day and said, ‘Would you like to come over for lunch? Nick is making pizza,’ which was amazing. Nora handed me the little Love, Loss book and said, ‘I have an idea. You have a theater downtown and I want to do this with friends; let’s see what it is.’ I said, ‘When do you want to start?’ We began with seven Mondays as a benefit for Dress for Success, and Nora was surprised that I wanted to move the show [to the Westside Theatre]. It was a little overwhelming to find myself making a suggestion like that to Nora, but she agreed to let it run for three months. At the end of the three months, she and Delia came to me and said, ‘This is too much work—recasting, and all the dresses. It’s over.’ I felt ready to cry. I said, ‘Women are loving this. They’re so touched by it. It can’t end yet.’ I got so nervous about having said ‘no’ to Nora that I went into the bathroom. When I came out, she just looked at me and said, ‘I really wish you would get a good haircut.’ And I thought, ‘OK, everything is fine.’” [Love, Loss went on to run for two and a half years.]
“I loved the fact that Nick and Nora were such a good team. I think anybody who is married can appreciate a good marriage, and they were always doing everything together; it was adorable. They would take walks together and go get the paper together. They worked at home in their own little areas, and she had a beautiful garden in the backyard, which I got to enjoy because it was on the other side of my hedge. They cooked together and saw friends together and were smart together. I admired so much the way they loved each other.”
“Nora and Delia shared a very strong bond. That’s why I think the Love, Loss experience was very important to both of them. Nora made a big effort to be very inclusive of Delia. Most people in the cast wanted to connect with Nora: ‘Did I do this right? What do you think?’ And I saw, on many occasions, Nora turn and say, ‘What do you think, Delia?’ She emphasized that it was a partnership. I don’t think they had worked together in theater before, and they really wanted to share this experience, which was lovely to see.”
The Real Thing
“There are a million reasons why I was thrilled for the opportunity to work with Nora, and a million reasons why I was so nervous about meeting her. At least, I wasn’t nervous until I told my friends what I was up to with Love, Loss and they either (A) screamed in my ear and dropped the phone, or (B) screamed in my ear, dropped the phone and burst into tears. I wondered: Can I sparkle enough to hold her in conversation? Will I be witty enough? In the end, Nora was the coolest of cucumbers. Charming, hysterically funny, fast-paced, with the rock-and-roll hairdo and the killer sense of style—Nora was the Real Deal. Her work ethic: impeccable. Her shorthand: perfect. I love it when people cut to the chase, and for me, Nora did that better than anyone.”
What Would Nora Do?
“Sometimes when I get peevish and complain-y about the business, I picture myself trying to whine to Nora, and what her face would look like, and how patient she would be with me—when all she would want to say would be: “Get on with it. Do it. Get over yourself. Shut up and get writing.” WWND. What Would Nora Do? Her enthusiasm for my work in comedy and the work I did in Love, Loss is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. Her handwritten notes to me will remain forever in my box of Very Important Things. And whenever I flip though the pages of the cookbook she gave me, I will never not cry that she is gone.”
To read the entire series of “Celebrating Nora” memories, click here.