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    Sleepless and Timeless

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    Nora Ephron took the project because she needed money. She would work on a dramatic romantic script that already had the fingerprints of two male screenwriters on it, one of whom (David S. Ward) was an Academy Award® winner (for The Sting) and the other (Jeff Arch) enjoying his first feature-film credit. There were stars and a director attached but Ephron’s rewrite…well, perhaps the beloved humorist should tell you in her own transcribed words, in this Academy of Achievement online interview posted here: At any rate, the finished product, Sleepless in Seattle (1993), which opened 23 years ago this week, would go on to become iconic as an exemplar of the Ephron wit, spirit and outlook, shaped by and defiantly commenting on the movie-love tradition she grew up with and herself outgrew as the daughter of Hollywood and Broadway scribes Henry and Phoebe Ephron. Of the 14 movies she either wrote and/or directed, it was the one closest to the lede in the tributes that sprang up to her following her death five years ago this week. Starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as, respectively, a Seattle-based widower and a Baltimore-based reporter destined to meet and fall in love…but not easily, it is simultaneously old-fashioned and new-fangled as only Ephron could perfectly calibrate. Her favorite scene is illustrative of this: the chick flick vs. guy flick scene debating the relative merits of the emotional impact of An Affair to Remember and The Dirty Dozen, which drew from Ephron’s personal databank and improvisational input from Hanks and supporting players Rita Wilson and Victor Garber. Ephron describes the crafting of a marvelous sequence that “had cutting-room floor written all over it” in this AFI Archives 2002 video interview excerpt here: As Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers observed: “Ephron homes in on what's been missing in movies and in life: ardor, longing and smart talk about the screwed-up notions that pass for love. When Sam [Hanks] and Annie [Ryan] finally get together at the Empire State Building, Ephron and master cinematographer Sven Nykvist turn it into a movie junkie's paradise. You don't have to know An Affair to Remember to join the fun. Just think of any movie scene that pushes your emotional buttons. For me it’s Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were. Others may go back to Bogie and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca or zip ahead, God forbid, to Whitney Houston warbling to Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard. Name your shame. Ephron tweaks them all without for a second denying their potency. In Sleepless, she breaks your heart without making you feel like a jerk. As date movies go, that's the ultimate in compliments.” No one would be more amused than the late, great Ephron that Sleepless in Seattle, also starring Bill Pullman, Rosie O’Donnell and the Ephron-scripted When Harry Met Sally…’s director Rob Reiner, then and now ranked as one of the all-time-great date movies, would be one of her signature achievements, nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award® to boot. Find out why with Twilight Time’s hi-def Blu-ray, available here: