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A Laugh A Minute, On Screen And In Life

Nora Ephron, the essayist, novelist, screenwriter and film director, died Tuesday night in Manhattan. She was 71, and suffered from leukemia.

She's most widely known for films including Silkwood and When Harry Met Sally, which she wrote, and Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail and Julie and Julia, which she wrote and directed. She also wrote many frank, humorous essays, some of which were collected in books.

And she drew on her painful divorce from her second husband, Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein, when writing the best-selling novel Heartburn, which she then turned into a movie screenplay. It was directed by Mike Nichols and starred Jack Nicholson, and Meryl Streep as a version of Ephron.

Fresh Air's Dave Davies spoke to Ephron in 2006, when she published a collection of essays about the challenges of getting older called I Feel Bad About My Neck. The interview aired on the program Radio Times at WHYY.

Interview Highlights

On Deep Throat

"I knew who Deep Throat was for years and years and years. And by the way, had you asked me on this station, on NPR, on WHYY, 15 years ago, I would happily have told you. I told everyone. But no one listened to me. It was very, very, very frustrating. Carl had never told me who Deep Throat was. ... I am not a discreet person. I would not have kept any secrets. I will tell anyone anything I know, and I knew that Deep Throat was Mark Felt. I figured it out from a clue in the book, and if I gave a speech with 500 people and [someone] asked me, I told them. I was like a tree falling in the forest that no one hears."

On growing older and approaching mirrors

"If I'm following a young person down the street and the young person passes a mirror, I see the fabulous way he or she turns toward it and kind of smiles and checks himself/herself out and they know what they're going to see. We don't know. There's a certain moment where you're just terrified about what you're going to see. So if you are forced to look at a mirror, you squint and then gently open your eyes to see if it's safe. And if it's not, you close them and walk on."

On Henry Hill, the subject of her husband Nicholas Pileggi's book Wiseguys, which became the basis for the movie Goodfellas

"Henry Hill, the man who Goodfellas and Wiseguys are about, in real life was put into the witness protection program. After the end of the movie, he was sent to Redmond, Wash. — the bicycle capital of America — where he single-handedly started a crime wave, because there was no crime there. And we kept getting all these collect phone calls from Henry asking for bail and asking for various other forms of assistance. He was always getting into trouble, and it was for things like jaywalking, which is not a crime in New York. But he was arrested for burglary. Burglary is barely a crime in New York. And then he would be arrested, and he would say to people, 'But I'm in the witness protection program. You can't really do anything to me.'"

Copyright 2021 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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