In her final years, Nora Ephron happened to notice a promising young writer named Lena Dunham.
Maybe it was because she saw herself in the spunky New Yorker or just wanted to take a blossoming writer under her wing, but either way, Ephron reached out to the "Girls" creator after seeing her independent film "Tiny Furniture." The two became fast friends over lunch, and Ephron became Dunham's mentor.
"Nora introduced me to, in no particular order: Several ear, nose, and throat doctors; the Patagonia jackets she favored when on set ... ordering multiple desserts and having small, reasonable bites of all of them," Dunham wrote in a New Yorker essay honoring Ephron. "She called bullshit on a whole host of things, too: Donuts served in fancy restaurants; photo shoots in which female directors are asked to all stand in a cluster wearing mustaches; the idea that one’s writing isn’t fiction if it borrows from one’s life."
With an independent film and a wildly successful HBO series under her belt, 26-year-old Dunham's career is booming. And Ephron gave her a valuable piece of advice that she certainly seems to have taken to heart: "You cannot wait around for someone to give you permission to tell your stories."
Ephron also seems to have conveyed the same message to Dunham as she did to Wellesley's class of 1996.
"Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady," Ephron said in her commencement speech. "I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women."
Dunham has certainly made some trouble, especially when it comes to "Girls." But through the outrage over race and cries of nepotism, she has managed to charge ahead and create one of the most revolutionary TV shows.
"I know I am only one of hundreds of women, people, who will miss Nora’s company, and millions who will miss her voice," Dunham concluded in her New Yorker tribute. "The opportunity to be friends with Nora in the last year of her life informs the entirety of mine. I am so grateful."
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