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Sisters making films: The Ephrons

August 21, 2011|By Jodie Burke, Special to the Los Angeles Times
  • Delia, left, and Nora Ephron paired on "Sleepless in Seattle." For the stage, they adapted "Love, Loss and What I Wore."
Delia, left, and Nora Ephron paired on "Sleepless in Seattle."… (Michael Robinson-Chavez…)

The Ephrons

There are four sisters in the Ephron family. Each is an accomplished writer, but it's the two eldest, Nora and Delia, who collaborate. They began working together in the early 1990s when Nora started directing. "It's nice to have someone on your side who is going through it with you," says Delia. "Someone that you trust."

Nora was offered a Meg Wolitzer book, which became "This Is My Life." She asked Delia to write the screenplay with her.

"I really felt that when I started to direct I wanted there to be a writer around," Nora explains. "The minute you start to direct, your brain is not on the script because there are so many other things to think about." Also, Nora adds, "Delia is the funniest person I know."

They worked together on "Sleepless in Seattle," co-wrote five more movies and most recently the play "Love, Loss, and What I Wore."

They outline everything together and take turns typing and pacing. "Sometimes one of us has stood up in the middle of a long piece of dialogue and said, 'I can't do another word of this. You finish it,'" Nora says. When they are done writing a script, neither can remember who wrote what.

Growing up, they fought like sisters do. "Sometimes she beat me at tennis, and it really irritated me," Nora admits. "But by the time Delia was in college, a great deal of the acrimony was gone. Which is not to say that it can't kick up again."

"Even in a marriage you get divorced," says Delia, who got divorced in her 20s and has been married to writer Jerome Kass "for ages." Nora, divorced twice, has been married to writer Nicholas Pileggi since 1987. When it comes to her sister, though, Delia says: "We're not ever going to be divorced."

Nora says they both particularly love writing for women. But that job has become much harder in Hollywood. "Everything's gotten worse," Nora says. The studios aren't making as many movies as they did. The types of stories being told are not as diverse as they used to be. "That's the other reason why I love writing my books," Delia admits. "I don't ever have to think about the marketplace. There's so much branding talk, you could just about pass out."

Continue reading about the Zenelaj sisters.

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