Nora’s play is going forward
- Last Updated: 11:28 AM, June 29, 2012
- Posted: 10:21 PM, June 28, 2012
Nora Ephron was working right up until the end.
Just a couple of weeks ago, she was still polishing her much-anticipated play “Lucky Guy,” about the late newspaper columnist Mike McAlary.
“It’s about the news business — but not in our day,” she told her friend and former Post colleague Roberta Gratz. “You’ll have to come to the opening.”
“Lucky Guy,” which will star Tom Hanks, is set in the newsrooms of the ’80s and ’90s. Gratz, the author of several books on urban preservation, worked with Ephron at The Post in the ’60s.
Directed by George C. Wolfe, “Lucky Guy” is scheduled to open on Broadway in the spring.
Lead producer Colin Callender yesterday said: “We . . . remain committed to seeing [Ephron’s] magnificent work ‘Lucky Guy’ shine on Broadway and can think of no more fitting tribute to her extraordinary writing and remarkable body of work.”
Sources tell me Callender worked the phones this week, assuring agents, members of the production team and theater owners that the production would go ahead as planned despite Ephron’s unexpected death this week from complications from leukemia.
The script, I’m told, is in good shape. If any changes have to be made in rehearsal, Wolfe, himself a writer, will handle them.
I spoke to Ephron last month about “Lucky Guy.”
We agreed to talk off the record, since she wanted her producers — Callender and Sonia Friedman — to make the official announcement of the production in my column.
“We’re giving it to you because you’re the person who seems to care,” she said, with a laugh. “Every time we do a reading, I think, well, this is going to be in Michael Riedel’s column. I’d love to know how you find out all this stuff, but I have a feeling you’re not going to tell me.”
I first met Ephron at a lunch at the Four Seasons last year honoring Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of “The Book of Mormon.”
“You don’t look scary,” she said when I introduced myself. I asked if I could call her about “Lucky Guy.”
“Sure,” she said. “I’m in the phone book.”
“Lucky Guy” has, in fact, been in the works for a long time. The first reading, which was held two years ago, was directed by Mike Nichols and starred Hugh Jackman as McAlary.
Ephron never met McAlary, but she told me she was fascinated by his obituaries.
He died, of colon cancer, in 1998, just a few months after winning the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Abner Louima case.
Thorough reporter that she was, she set about interviewing editors and reporters who knew him, including Daily News editor James “Hap” Hairston, who edited McAlary’s Louima columns.
She told me that after I wrote about the play two years ago, she received several e-mails from more McAlary friends wanting to tell her their stories.
I’d gotten quite a few e-mails as well, and she said, “Send them my way.”
She hoped “Lucky Guy” would evoke the last hurrah of the newspaper racket, when a front-page scoop was yours for the day — not just the 30 seconds it now takes for someone else to put it up on his Web site.
Recalling Ephron’s days at The Post, Gratz told me: “Her personality came through in everything she wrote. And everything she wrote got attention. She had that rare combination of good street reporting with a fresh sense of humor.”
Sounds like a winning combination for “Lucky Guy” as well.