Tonys Preview: Remembering Nora Ephron


Friday, June 07, 2013

 Left to right: Tom Hanks and Christopher McDonald in Lucky Guy Left to right: Tom Hanks and Christopher McDonald in Lucky Guy (Joan Marcus)

On Sunday, June 9, Broadway theater will celebrate itself at the 67th Tony Awards. Kurt Andersen spoke with Fiona Shaw, the star (and sole performer) of The Testament of Mary, which is nominated for Best Play; Tracy Letts, up for Best Actor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf; and Tom Hanks and George C. Wolfe, nominated for Best Actor and Best Director respectively in Lucky Guy. The last play by Nora Ephron, who died last year, Lucky Guy is also a nominee for Best Play.

Hanks told Kurt that he had resisted the role of Mike McAlary, a real New York City tabloid reporter who struck him as “kind of a jerk,” Hanks admits. “Can you say asshole on public radio?” He had done essentially no stage acting throughout his career, and accepted in part for the chance to work with Ephron. “Nora was a good hang. She was a fun person to spend time with — you always ate well, you always laughed, you were always constantly talking about the pulse of the nation and the world.”

Wolfe says that Ephron decided to write about McAlary many years earlier. “She read McAlary’s obituary [he died in 1998] and went, ‘This will be a great play,’” Wolfe recounts. “McAlary was on his way to interview Abner Louima” — for Daily News reports that stunned the city and received the Pulitzer Prize — “when he was on chemo. Nora, about the time that she started to work with me, started chemo.”

Ephron, who was as beloved as she was admired, kept her illness a secret from the theater community. “I would give her tons and tons and tons of notes and I would say, ‘Take your time.’ Then she’d be back a week later, or a week and a half later, with a new draft. I was sort of dazzled and sort of frustrated,” Wolfe says. “She was sick and I didn’t know it. She was working at a very different time table. There was a ferocity and discipline and rigor as she approached the work that was just astonishing.”


Bonus Track: George C. Wolfe

Listen to all of Kurt Andersen's conversation with George C. Wolfe, recorded at the WNYC Producer's Circle Reception on May 14, 2013.

More 2013 Tony Nominees on Studio 360

Tom HanksTom Hanks

Tom Hanks talks more about his experience working with the late Nora Ephron on Lucky Guy.

Total Play Nominations: 6


Tim MinchinTim Minchin

Tim Minchin plays songs from his nominated score to Matilda the Musical.

Total Play Nominations: 12



Fiona ShawFiona Shaw

Fiona Shaw talks about how she brought attitude to her portrayal of the mother of Jesus in The Testament of Mary.

Total Play Nominations: 3


Tracy LettsTracy Letts

Tracy Letts explains why he believes a love story is at the heart of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Total Play Nominations: 5



Tom Hanks

Comments [3]

Sheryl Zacharia

I am the widow of Hap Hairston played by Courtney B.Vance in the play Lucky Guy. I heard the nyc radio interview with him yesterday...Courtney Vance and George C. Wolfe, and today some of the interview with Tom Hanks who plays the lead Mike Macalary. In both interviews it was expressed that neither knew these people, yet words like jerk asshole and bitter were used and knowing both of these wonderful men obviously very well, I not only found it offensive, but inaccurate. Someone should interview me, so the record could be set straight.
As the widow of one of the main characters in the play I was not permitted to contribute or speak to the actor, they say for artistic reasons, but that is not true.I was not even notified by Nora Ephron or the Producers that my late husband was being portrayed. He was interviewed by Nora Ephron before he passed away and some of the funniest and most poignant parts of the play she got directly from her conversations with him. If someone would care to here some opinions and facts from someone who actually knew the real people instead of hearing character descriptions from people who didnt, I would be happy to oblige.

Jun. 08 2013 04:59 PM
Leital from Studio 360

Nancy, thank you! It's fixed now.

Jun. 08 2013 03:56 PM
Nancy from Nebraska

Enjoyed the article, but can't get past the typo in the headline. Help!

Jun. 08 2013 12:03 PM

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