Nora Ephron: Writer, Filmmaker, Heroine of Her Life, Dies at 71

Nora Ephron died Tuesday in New York. She was 71. (2010 file photo Charles Sykes/AP) Nora Ephron, known for her hit romantic comedies "Sleepless in Seattle," "When Harry Met Sally," and "Julie & Julia," died Tuesday night in Manhattan. She was 71.

Her son, Jacob Bernstein, told The New York Times that she died from pneumonia brought on by acute myeloid leukemia.

"Nora Ephron was devastatingly funny, extremely witty, and was ALWAYS one of the kindest people I have ever met," actor Colin Hanks, son of Ephron's friend and colleague Tom Hanks, wrote on Twitter Tuesday night.

The daughter of two Hollywood screenwriters, Ephron was born on May 19, 1941, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and grew up in Beverly Hills, California. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1962, worked briefly as an intern in John F. Kennedy's White House (where he never hit on her, she has said), and moved to New York to become a journalist.

Though she's best known for writing romantic comedies for the silver screen -- "I try to write parts for women that are as complicated and interesting as women actually are," she once said -- Ephron was also an accomplished newspaper and magazine writer, blogger, playwright, novelist, and movie director with eight films to her credit -- and that doesn't include the dozen or so others that she wrote. According to the Los Angeles Times, she was working on yet another movie when she died: A film "about a Jane Austen fan who switches places with one of the British author's fictional characters."

"You do get to a certain point in life where you have to realistically, I think, understand that the days are getting shorter, and you can't put things off thinking you'll get to them someday," she wrote in "I Remember Nothing (and Other Reflections)," which came out in 2010, a few years after she found out that she had myelodysplastic syndrome, which leads to leukemia. "If you really want to do them, you better do them. There are simply too many people getting sick, and sooner or later you will. So I'm very much a believer in knowing what it is that you love doing so you can do a great deal of it."

Ephron is survived by her sons, Jacob Bernstein and Max Bernstein, her husband, Nicholas Pileggi, and her sisters, Delia, Amy, and Hallie Ephron.

More than her movies, her words of wisdom rang true to women from all walks of life. "Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim," she told the Wellesley College class of 1996. "What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don't be frightened: you can always change your mind. I know: I've had four careers and three husbands."

Here are a few of our favorite Nora Ephron movie moments. What are yours?

Meg Ryan proves Billy Crystal wrong in this classic clip from "When Harry Met Sally":

Meryl Streep singing "Amazing Grace" in "Silkwood":

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan at the Empire State Building in "Sleepless in Seattle":

Meryl Streep as Julia Child in "Julie & Julia":

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