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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Writer and film director Nora Ephron, known for work on movies such as "When Harry Met Sally," has died in New York at age 71, according to media reports Tuesday night, hours after it was first revealed that she was gravely ill and near death.

A spokeswoman for her agency, Los Angeles-based Creative Artists Agency, declined to comment on the reports. Nicholas Latimer, a spokesman at publishing company Random House, told Reuters Ephron was "gravely ill."

He could not confirm reports that she had died, which was reported by The New York Times, The Washington Post and show business newspaper Daily Variety.

Earlier on Tuesday, New York based gossip columnist Liz Smith told entertainment industry website The Hollywood Reporter that she had spoken to Ephron's son, Jacob Bernstein, and the family is already planning a funeral.

"I was told this morning that she was dying, but I can't confirm it," The Hollywood Reporter quoted Smith as saying.

ABC News posted a story on its website citing sources close to the family as telling the TV network Ephron is "gravely ill."

Ephron, known for screenplays "When Harry Met Sally," "Sleepless in Seattle" and more recently, "Julie & Julia," which she also directed, had not publicly addressed suffering from any illness in recent months.

During a long career, Ephron has written for newspapers and magazines. She published books and essays, but is perhaps best known for her work in movies.

She was nominated for three Academy Awards for writing romantic the comedies "Harry Met Sally," "Sleepless in Seattle" and drama "Silkwood."

(Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Philip Barbara)

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