Fighting back tears, and trying to breath while she spoke, Meryl Streep gave one of many impassioned eulogies today for Nora Ephron at the director and screenwriter’s memorial service at Alice Tully Hall. Like nearly everyone else in the hall, Streep–who starred in three Ephron films and was a close friend–had no idea her friend was dying. Her death came as a shock. “I’m so pissed off and so honored,” Streep said, noting how odd it is that you could be so angry at someone you loved.
The other speakers included director Mike Nichols, married actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Martin Short, Ephron’s sons Max and Jacob, Rosie O’Donnell–who read the piece Ephron wrote for her from “Love, Loss, and What I Wore,” plus journalist friend Richard Cohen, sister Delia Ephron, and Ephron’s assistant, who introduced a clip Ephron had made of her films.
Streep said, “She really did catch us napping. She pulled a fast one on all of us.”
It was a sad but joyous celebration of Ephron’s life, filled with love and lots of laughs and tears. And what a star-studded group of friends! In addition to Ephron’s husband Nick Pileggi, the crowd glittered with Lauren Bacall, Annette Bening, Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw, Matthew Broderick, David Geffen, Meg Ryan, Steve Martin, Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn, Diane Sawyer, Rob Reiner, Sally Field, Larry David, Bob and Lynn Balaban, Sir Harold Evans, Paul Simon, Bette Midler, Jon Hamm, Jennifer Westfeldt, Tom and Meredith Brokaw, Liz Smith, Peggy Siegal, Senator Al Franken, Alan Alda, producer Diane Sokolow, Cynthia McFadden, Patti Scialfa, Martha Stewart, Diane von Furstenberg, Barry Diller, Tony Kushner, Steve Kroft, Terry McDonell, Regis and Joy Philbin, Martin Scorsese, Blythe Danner, Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue, Scott Rudin, Ronald Perelman, Charlie Rose, Christine Baranski, George Stephanopolous, Lynn Sherr, Lynda Obst, Ron Delsener, Jane Rosenthal, Kristen Chenoweth, novelist Meg Wolitzer, and on and on. I’m sorry if I’ve missed a few names. Nora filled Alice Tully Hall with New York’s finest, including, graciously, her second husband, Carl Bernstein.
Plus there was a clutch of Sony execs–Sir Howard Stringer, Michael Lynton, Amy Pascal and Michael Barker.
Of course, everyone who spoke noted that Ephron had dictated the entire event–including who spoke, for how long, and what they were to say on stage. Each memorial program came with an insert of a recipe from “Heartburn” on special loose-leaf looking note paper. The program began and ended with music from her movies, including Jimmy Durante singing “As Time Goes By.” It was remarkable. At the reception only pink Champagne was served, in her Nora’s memory and by her wish.
“Sometimes,” Streep said, “you have to wait until your friend leaves the room to say how great she is.”