10 Questions: Nora Ephron

(CBS/The Early Show)
No one has had a more interesting or eclectic career than journalist/novelist/screenwriter/director Nora Ephron. She wrote bestselling books ("Scribble, Scribble", "Heartburn"), and acclaimed films ("Silkwood", "When Harry Met Sally") before sliding into the director's chair and creating some of the most engaging and popular movie comedies of the last 20 years("Sleepless in Seattle", "Michael", "You've Got Mail.") She's now braving the blogosphere, as a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. She's also turned her attention to aging, with a collection of essays "I Feel Bad About My Neck." We can't imagine why anyone with Nora Ephron's track record would feel bad about anything, but we decided to ask her 10 Questions this week about aging, marriage, Hollywood and politics.
1. Why do you think your book, "I Feel Bad About My Neck," struck such a chord? It's more than the title right?

Some days I think it IS just the title. Because the title pretty much says this thing that women over a certain age instantly understand. They do feel bad about their necks.

2. What's surprised you the most about aging?

For years what surprised me most was the pretense that getting older was fabulous. I didn't understand why so many people were determined to write books that insisted on everything but the truth -- which is that aging is a combination of many things, some of them funny, some of them sad, some of them serious. You're totally pulled between the funny things -- or the sort of funny things, like the fact that you now have a mustache -- to the serious ones, like the fact that sooner rather than later you're going to die.

3. How do you think your generation handles aging as compared to your parents? Do you think there's more of an inclination to fight the process—and get cosmetic treatments—rather than just "accept it gracefully?"

There's so much more we can do. I have a theory that the main reason people look so much younger than they did in my parents' generation is not because of exercise or better living but hair dye. When I was a kid, you really could dye your hair only two colors -- pink and blue. Of course there was no such thing as Botox. And there are so many major changes in plastic surgery. Back in my parents' day, you pretty much had to play the hand you were dealt, unless it came to your nose. You could change your nose. Now you can change pretty much anything.

4. Do you think the children of Baby Boomers will be as obsessed with staying forever young as their parents seem to be?

Absolutely. It will be much worse. It already is.

5. In the book you talk about "maintenance" almost being a second career. Have you ever considered just saying "to hell with it?"

No, God no. Are you crazy?

6. Is there a fear that—with divorce so prevalent these days—if older women don't do these things, their husbands may replace them with a younger model?

I don't really think that all the maintenance in the world will keep a husband from leaving his wife for a younger model if that's what he wants to do. The truth is that most women maintain themselves because they want to, not because of their husbands. At least that's my impression. Most of my friends who've had face lifts did it over the (mild) objections of their husbands. Of course I don't live in Los Angeles, where all this may be different.

7. Do you think you'd handle parenting differently if you had to do it over again today? Would you handle your youth differently in general? (Besides wearing a bikini more!)

I would handle everything differently if I had it to do over again, especially if I could end up with the same apartment and husband and children I currently have. I have a zillion regrets, major and minor. One of my main regrets is that I didn't understand the concept of debt, so I waited way too long to buy instead of rent. As a corollary, I also didn't understand that if you buy a house, you still have the money you spent on it. If you follow me. On the other hand, I was very smart about one thing: staying out of the sun.

8. You talked about your divorces in the book. Is divorce avoidable? In other words, knowing what you know today, are they lessons you've learned about whom to marry?

Well my favorite thing in my book is a line I stole from my sister -- never marry a man you wouldn't want to be divorced from. I could definitely have avoided divorce if I'd followed that advice, not that she gave it to me in time. But then I always think: if I hadn't had that marriage that didn't work, would I now have my marriage that does work? In some way, I think having a marriage that was a true disaster made some things much clearer when it came to getting married again.

9. Diane Keaton has talked at length about how hard it is for a middle-aged woman in Hollywood. Do you think it's more difficult for you to write or direct a movie because of the way people in the entertainment industry stereotype older women?

Yes but I don't think it's as serious a problem as the war in Iraq, and it's not even one of the twenty-five most serious problems for women in America.

10. You've written a lot about politics for the Huffington Post. You seem to have such a well-developed personal philosophy—what is your political philosophy? What do you believe government should do?

My political philosophy? Well I don't know. I'm a Democrat. I'm anti-war. I'm pro-choice. That about sums it up.