Last week, HBO premiered the documentary Everything Is Copy, a tribute to the late, great Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail ), the witty writer, director and producer famous for an unmatched capacity for honesty and an intuitive feel for the female mind.
Written and directed by her son Jacob Bernstein, a reporter for the New York Times and one of two sons she had with journalist Carl Bernstein, this poignant portrait reveals the larger-than-life woman through interviews with the people who knew her best. We hear from family, friends and colleagues, including movie luminaries Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan and Mike Nichols, to name a few. Full of tender and touching moments that will make you laugh and cry, longtime fans and a new generation of admirers can relish in Ephron’s triumphs, failures and flaws.
An icon of ambition, Ephron broke through the glass ceiling at a time when women were thought of as the inferior sex. She began her career as the only mail girl at Newsweek in the late ’60s, before becoming one of the most respected essayists at Esquire in the ’70s. She eventually took Hollywood by storm in the ’80s as the master of romantic comedies.
“When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you. But when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it’s your laugh, so you become the hero, not the victim of the joke,” Ephron says in the film, as her voice carries us into her world on the clatter of her typewriter.
The guiding principle of Ephron’s life was, “Everything is copy,” a philosophy passed down from her mother, meaning every experience — good, bad or indifferent — is material. One day the embarrassing anecdotes that color your life will be funny, which is illustrated through various interviews and appearances Ephron did over the years.
She lived out loud, shedding light on life’s most intimate topics, from weathering her own divorce and personal inadequacies to having small breasts and faking orgasms. She had the ability to write her troubles into treasures and make them humorous — a feat in itself, highlighted through narrations of her work by those who admired her most.
So much more than a writer, she was an oracle of knowledge on men and women and their relationships. She took universal truths we all can relate to and turned them into masterpieces by hiding human interaction inside humor with heart—the lifeblood of her movies.
As Bernstein says, certainty was the hallmark of her brand. And so why, in the most powerful period of her life — her battle with leukemia — was that not the case, as she withdrew from sharing the details of her disease? Everything Is Copy digs into this question, illuminating the space between Ephron’s public life and private death, leaving you with a profound perception of the many facets of this fearless female.
Catch Everything Is Copy on HBO On Demand through April 26.