Of all the world-famous actors to work with Nora Ephron, none is as closely associated with the screenwriter and director as Meg Ryan. The three Ephron movies she starred in -- "When Harry Met Sally," "Sleepless in Seattle" and "You've Got Mail" -- were some of her most successful, at the box office and in the eyes of critics. So it comes as no surprise that Ryan was particularly hard hit by the news of Ephron's death on Tuesday night.
"Nora was an era," began Ryan's poetic statement, sent via email to The Huffington Post.
"We pictured ourselves inside her dreams and they became ours," she continued. "All wisdom, wit and sparkle lights, what a treat she was, what a bless. I marvel again and again, what a life... to have created a simple happiness in people, to have added to the sum of delight in the world."
Tom Hanks, Ryan's costar in "You've Got Mail" and "Sleepless in Seattle," emphasized his director's intelligence, charm and warmth, noting that Ephron "knew what was important to know; how things really worked, what was worthwhile, who was fascinating and why." In an echo of a statement issued yesterday by Nicole Kidman, he said that her erudition made her a distinguished giver of dinner parties:
"At a dinner table and on a film set she lifted us all with wisdom and wit mixed with love for us and love for life. Rita and I are so very sad to lose our friend who brought so much joy to all who were lucky enough to know her..."
Rosie O'Donnell, who had a memorable cameo as Meg Ryan's editor in "Sleepless in Seattle," was more succint, but no less moved. "I am devastated," she said. "Nora was a close friend and will be missed terribly."
For some, the fame of those three movies can obscure the fact that Hollywood's "Nora Era" really began with the 1983 release of "Silkwood." But not for Meryl Streep and Mike Nichols, respectively the star and director of the movie, for which Ephron wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay.
Streep said, in a statement, that she had always been impressed by Ephron's "gifts of mind" -- but also that, before the two became close, she found those gifts "kind of scary," intimidating in their expansiveness. "But as I got to know her," Streep explained,"I understood what drove her was her acute curiosity, and her desire to observe and find out stuff." She continued:
"It's what made her great as a journalist, and as a director, too... She thought fast, loved new ideas, processed swiftly, decided what was valuable and what was not with clarity. It's hard to credit how very smart she was, because she was always deflectively feminine and funny, the sharpness of mind softened and smoothed by genuine charm."
Nichols -- whom Ephron saluted with a hilarious speech at the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement awards in 2010 -- issued a statement that expressed a profound sense of loss:
"What kind of a place is this? I feel like someone reached in and grabbed my compass from around my neck and threw it from a moving train. How will I navigate? I think a lot of friends and readers will feel like that. Nora was so funny and interesting that we didn’t notice that she was necessary. She is absolutely irreplaceable."
Irreplaceable -- and, to judge by the emotional outpouring from her former colleagues, unforgettable.