Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Jim Dwyer on Becoming a Nora Ephron Character

The Times writer helped Ephron with her play ‘Lucky Guy’

Print Email

While we were away for Passover, Jim Dwyer at the Times dished about his role in aiding the late Nora Ephron with what turned out to be “Lucky Guy,” a screenplay-turned-play about the life of New York journalist Mike McAlary. The play, which stars Tom Hanks and features Dwyer as a character, is being widely celebrated (and generating some controversy).

Here’s how he described one of the meetings:

At our dinner in 1999, Ephron did not touch her food. She had insisted that I order the veal chop, a bit bossy considering that we’d only met 90 seconds earlier.

She kept taking notes as I passed along McAlary lore.

At closing time in bars, McAlary would do actual cartwheels. In 1980, the first time he visited Elaine’s he spotted Jerry Brown, the governor of California, a man he knew virtually nothing about except that he had recently broken up with the singer Linda Ronstadt. McAlary fed $10 in quarters into the jukebox and played the same song 40 times in a row: the governor’s ex-girlfriend wailing, “Baby, you’re no good.” He was all of 22.

Yes, McAlary had a big ego, but he was not a prisoner of self-absorption: later on, a young reporter who’d been given some minor journalism honor might find a magnum of Champagne on the desk, wrapped by McAlary in the prizewinning articles.

It seems natural that Ephron was drawn to a character like McAlary, who seemed to do for young journalists for Ephron did for a generation of young writers. Writing for Tablet last summer after Ephron’s death, Rachel Shukert explained how Ephron had created a new kind of woman through her work.

Her favorite musical was My Fair Lady. It fits: To the women who loved her, she was both Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle. Expert teacher and eager student, she made us feel like us, in all our messy, capable, idiosyncratic, hilarious glory.

Reading Dwyer’s take on Ephron’s fidelity to her characters (himself included), it’s easy to see why.

Related: Nora Ephron’s Character
From Tabloid Myth to Opening Night [NYT]

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Jim Dwyer on Becoming a Nora Ephron Character

The Times writer helped Ephron with her play ‘Lucky Guy’

More on Tablet:

Wolf Blitzer Explores His Jewish Roots

By David Meir Grossman — CNN host visits Yad Vashem and Auschwitz for the network’s ‘Roots’ series