It’s hard to decide which Nora Ephron is most famous for:
a) beginning her career by impugning the integrity of famous feminists, her alma mater Wellesley College and her employer at The New York Post
b) writing the most defining romantic comedies of her day (i.e. “Sleepless in Seattle,” “When Harry Met Sally”)
c) revealing the identity of Deep Throat, after divorcing her cheating second-husband Carl Bernstein (of Watergate fame)
No stranger to controversy, Ephron has always embraced taboo topics in her work. In 2006, she released a sparkling book, “I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman” in which she used sass, humor and style to lampoon female aging.
The romantic comedies that made her a legend are now so passe: She’s onto more serious female portrayals. Next up is a Julia Child biopic, “Julie and Julia” about the incomparable female chef, starring the incomparable Meryl Streep.
Ephron talks to USA Today about casting Streep in the upcoming summer flick:
Director/writer Nora Ephron, who did the screenplays for Streep’s Silkwood (1983) and Heartburn (1986), says the actress basically did an informal audition for her a couple of Junes ago when they bumped into each other at New York’s Shakespeare in the Park.
“It was before I even started writing the script,” the filmmaker says. “She asked, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘Blah, blah, Julie Powell, Julia Child, 524 recipes.’ She went into Julia as we were walking out of the theater. She did her for a full 10 seconds. I think she even said, ‘Bon appétit,’ ” the late chef’s famous sign-off from her PBS cooking show. “I thought, ‘OK, look no further.’ “
Once Prada opened, Ephron says, “I knew if I could get her, not only would she be the best person for it, but she would also force the studio to make the film. She was a movie star at age 57 or whatever she is.”
The role is more of a stretch than usual for Streep, who is 59. Not only does her half of the plot begin with Child at age 37 in 1949 as a student at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, but the chef also was a strapping 6-foot-2.
How did Streep, who is 5-foot-6 or so, manage to create such a towering presence? “Meryl believed that in order to capture the essence of the character, you had to believe Julia Child is 6-foot-2,” Ephron says. “Actually, our ambitions were more modest. We made her 6 feet. We used a whole bunch of fabulous tricks. Everything we could think of. Ann Roth did amazing things with costumes.”
Naturally, the whiz at accents nailed the native Californian’s distinctive vocal inflections. A dark, matronly wig tops off the transformation.
The performance, Ephron says, “is not an imitation, it’s more of a habitation.”