Nora Ephron Death: ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ Star Tom Hanks Writes About the Late Filmmaker

Tom Hanks has written a eulogy and tribute for his late friend and colleague Nora Ephron, who died Tuesday at the age of 71 of pneumonia, a complication resulting from a battle with leukemia she had kept secret from even her closest friends. Titled ‘Nora Ephron: A Life of Voice and Detail’, the star of Ephron’s films Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail reflects on the genius of a woman whose legacy on Hollywood won’t be forgotten.

The tribute reads in part:

As wives are wont to do, mine announced one evening in 1992 that we were going to a movie.

The movie was This Is My Life, the writer and first-time director was Nora Ephron, and within the hour, there we were in the cinema watching the opening credits of a ­middle-aged-chick flick about a woman (played by the wonderful Julie Kavner) who becomes a stand-up comic, moves to Manhattan from one of the not-Manhattan boroughs and sort of neglects her kids in the process but actually makes everyone’s life better in the long run. Though that movie would be ­considered ­only a middling success, it was inexpensive to make, had wonderful, real performances, looked great (though Nora said to me years later, “Why didn’t I move the camera?”) and made some money.

I thought it was much more, an ideal debut film that sparkled with bits of genius.

Nora, with her sense of story, understood the value of the turn-by-turn realism of her character’s trek, transforming what could have been a standard moving-the-kids-and-couch bit into a journey of hope and glory. When I was told she was going to direct a second movie — Sleepless in ­Seattle — and wanted to meet, I actually hollered at my agent, “She shot that geographically authentic move into Manhattan!”

It was her journalist’s curiosity that made Nora the directing talent she was. Her writing was always voice and detail.

Knowing and loving Nora meant her world—or her neighborhood—became yours. She gave you books to read and took you to cafés you’d never heard of that became legends.

For a wrap gift, she would send you a note saying something like, “A man is going to come to your house to plant an orange tree—or apple or pomegranate or ­whatever—and you will eat its fruit for the rest of your days.” Rita and I chose orange, and the fruit has been lovely, sweet and abundant, just as Nora ­promised—a constant and perfect reminder of the woman we loved so much.

Hanks’ wrote his tribute for TIME.