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Hanging On

Delia Ephron talks about her dysfunctional showbiz family, sibling rivalry and her film "Hanging Up"


by Naomi Pfefferman

February 17, 2000 | 7:00 pm

Delia Ephron knows a thing or two about sibling rivalry. She didn't start writing until she was around 30, she says, because that was big sister Nora's turf.

Nora, of course, is Nora Ephron, the author of the smart New York comedy "When Harry Met Sally..." and the director of the hit films "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You've Got Mail."

"The family legacy was a bit daunting," admits Delia, the second of four sisters whose screenwriter parents wrote "Desk Set," "Carousel" and "What Price Glory?" "One of the ways I differentiated myself was to deny, for a time, what I was obviously destined to be."

At least she started writing in her late 20's. Little sister Amy waited until her 30's to claim the family craft and another sister, Hallie, a computer executive, began writing in her 40's and only recently sold her first novel. "I was quite stunned when she called me and said she wanted to be a writer," says Delia, 55, during a telephone interview from her New York home. "She'd obviously avoided it, too."

Actually it was Nora who encouraged Delia to become a free-lance writer in the 1970s and who introduced her to Hollywood in the early '90s. Nora was working on "This is My Life," her directorial debut, and knew she needed Delia's help on the screenplay about sisters growing up in a dysfunctional showbusiness family.

The Ephrons have since collaborated on "Mixed Nuts," "Michael" and "You've Got Mail," which Delia co-wrote and executive produced; and "Sleepless in Seattle," which she associate produced.

Delia concedes that she is best known for her work on films that are essentially Nora's projects; when Nora directs, Nora is the boss. That is why Delia is thrilled about the Ephrons' latest endeavor, "Hanging Up," a film that gives Delia, the middle sister, her due.

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