LOS ANGELES — Nora Ephron's characters were highly verbal and hyper-analytical. They had a head for the absurd and a heart for romance. But above all, they were funny.
To honor the writer and director, who died of leukemia Tuesday at 71, we're devoting the Five Most space to her this week. But Ephron wrote so many classic and quotable lines, we're choosing 10 instead of five. We probably could have chosen 10 from "When Harry Met Sally ..." alone.
1. Still the funniest line from any movie Ephron wrote: from 1989's "When Harry Met Sally ...": "I'll have what she's having." It's delivered by an onlooker (director Rob Reiner's mother) after Ryan launches into a raucous fake orgasm at a packed Katz's Delicatessen after Billy Crystal insists that no woman has ever faked it with him. Crystal actually came up with the line, according to lore, but it's such a crucial piece in Ephron's canon that we have to include it.
2. Also from "When Harry Met Sally ...." In a different restaurant, before the fake orgasm scene, Ryan insists she's had great sex with a guy named Sheldon.
Crystal: "Shel? Sheldon? No, no, you did not have great sex with Sheldon."
Ryan: "I did too."
Crystal: "No you didn't. A Sheldon can do your income taxes, if you need a root canal, Sheldon's your man. But humpin' and pumpin' is not Sheldon's strong suit. It's the name: 'Do it to me Sheldon, you're an animal Sheldon, ride me big Shel-don.' Doesn't work."
3. The big New Year's Eve speech Crystal delivers to Ryan at the end of "When Harry Met Sally ...." This is vintage Ephron in a nutshell.
"I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."
4. From 1998's "You've Got Mail," which Ephron wrote and directed, when Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are walking through a farmer's market ruling out the people they won't date.
Hanks: "I could never be with someone who likes Joni Mitchell. 'It's clouds illusions I recall/I really don't know clouds at all.' What does that mean? Is she a pilot? Is she taking flying lessons? It must be a metaphor for something but I don't know what it is."
5. The last lines of "You've Got Mail," after all the gesturing and posturing, the sabotage and mistaken identity, they meet in Riverside Park and Ryan finally realizes that Hanks has been her secret email pal all along.
Hanks: "Don't cry, Shopgirl. Don't cry."
Ryan: "I wanted it to be you. I wanted it to be you so badly."
6. From 1993's "Sleepless in Seattle," which Ephron also wrote and directed. Tom Hanks' son has called into a late-night talk radio show for him. As he explains what was so special about his late wife, Ryan is listening in her car across the country.
"Well, how long is your program? Well, it was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they just meant we were supposed to be together. And I knew it. And I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home, only to no home I'd ever known. I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like ... magic.
7. Also from "Sleepless in Seattle." Rob Reiner explains to Hanks that dating is different now than it was the last time he was out there.
Hanks: "What is tiramisu?"
Reiner: "You'll find out."
Hanks: "Well, what is it?"
Reiner: "You'll see."
Hanks: "Some woman is gonna want me to do it to her and I'm not gonna know what it is!"
8. From "Heartburn" (1986), directed by Mike Nichols, which Ephron wrote based on her own marriage to Carl Bernstein. Meryl Streep confronts Jack Nicholson about the affair he's been having with a drawer full of telltale receipts.
"I know about you and Thelma Rice. I know everything, it's all here. You didn't even have the decency to hide the evidence, you just threw it in a drawer. Hotels, motels. You couldn't even pay cash like a normal philanderer. You charged everything. I mean look at this — flowers, look at all these flowers that you bought her! And you occasionally brought me home a bunch of wilted zinnias."
9. Also from "Heartburn": Streep and Nicholson are bickering over a chicken leg during a picnic with friends.
Streep: "You know, this is not your mother's house where you do something like that and everybody thinks it's cute."
Nicholson: "If it's not my mother's house, then why are you talking to me like I'm your kid?"
10. From 2009's "Julie & Julia," which Ephron wrote and directed. Amy Adams, as blogger Julie Powell, explains why the Julia Child cookbook has been important to her since childhood.
"When I was 8, my father's boss came to dinner and it was a really big deal. And my mother made boeuf bourguignon. But it wasn't just boeuf bourguignon. It was Julia's boeuf bourguignon. And it was like she was there, like Julia was there in the room on our side, like some great, big, good fairy. And everything was going to be all right."