Meg Ryan played some of the most endearing romantic leads of the 1980s and 1990s, solidifying her status as one of America’s sweethearts.
The endearing actress with the blonde shag hairstyle will always be associated with classic films like You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle.
Nothing at the time suggested Ryan’s star would wane, but in 2018, she actually vanished entirely from the big screen.
Today, the 90s “girl next door” avoids the spotlight, but Ryan, who is now 61, recently made an appearance on the red carpet and sparked some questions.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who admired Meg Ryan in the 1980s and 1990s. There was a reason why the blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty was dubbed “America’s darling”; she was the queen of the rom-com.
During the two decades she was one of Hollywood’s most beloved actors, her star shone brightly.
However, it was far from certain that Meg Ryan would become well-known on a global scale.
Ryan, who was born in 1961, was raised in Fairfield, Connecticut. Her father, math teacher Harry Hyra, was of Polish ancestry. Being on stage came naturally to Ryan’s family because his mother, Susan Jordan, was both an actress and a teacher.
Meg’s connection with her parents later in life was hostile as a result of her parents’ divorce in 1976, when she was just 15 years old.
Meg would actually sever relations with her mother as a result of a number of things. When she signed up with the Screen Actors Guild, she also made the decision to change her last name to “Ryan,” the maiden name of her grandmother.
Ryan decided to pursue journalism studies as a young lady at the University of Connecticut and later at New York University. Though probably not in the way that many people expected, her experience in college would impact her life.
To supplement her income, Meg Ryan began appearing in soap operas and TV commercials. Suddenly, she was cast in As the World Turns, and lots of producers got wind of the young, gifted actress.
Ryan left college early to pursue a job in the entertainment sector. She had a brief moment of fame when she painted Carole Bradshaw, Nick “Goose” Bradshaw’s wife, in the hit movie Top Gun (Anthony Edwards).
Meg Ryan was able to get bigger roles because to the romantic action film, which was also the highest-grossing movie of 1986.
On the Top Gun set, she also found love. She began dating Anthony Edwards, her co-star and on-screen husband. The pair lived together after dating for some time.
In 1987, Ryan and his future spouse, Dennis Quaid, starred in the science fiction film Innerspace.
“She had already been in “Top Gun” but in a small part. She also had the lead in a picture called “Armed and Dangerous” with John Candy that had come out recently. But this was a great step up for her and of course, she was introduced to Dennis and later they got married,” the director, Joe Dante, told Cinema Retro.
Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid fell in love immediately and tied the knot on February 14, 1991.
“It was like a thunderbolt,” Dennis said. “Both of us felt, ‘This is it. We’re going to be together.’”
The ceremony was held in the couple’s hotel room, on Valentine’s Day. Ryan’s mother was excluded from the wedding.
“I was laughing and crying at the same time,” she told the New York Post and continued: “And I realized I could’ve never gotten married in front of a whole group of people.”
When she was cast in the lead role of the romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally, her ascent to fame was dramatically accelerated. Alongside Billy Cristal,
Ryan played Sally Albright. Although the movie wasn’t well received by critics, it is now considered as a cult classic rom-com.
The film would also serve as the immovable basis for Meg Ryan’s reign as the rom-com queen.
Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks collaborated on another romantic comedy hit, Sleepless in Seattle, in 1993. The adorable “girl next door” captured the attention of the moviegoers once more, and everyone appreciated her performance.
“I think her ‘cuteness’ sometimes blinds people to how genuinely gifted she is as a comic actress,” the famous director of Nora Ephron told Vanity Fair in 1995.
Tom Hanks also revealed things about his co-star, claiming that Meg Ryan could be pretty far from her characters in Nora Ephron’s movies. Even though critics dubbed her “the current soul of the romantic comedy,” Meg had other sides as well.
“Meg is not perky, I always got the distinct impression that this woman is not to be messed around with,” the well-known actor said in 1995.
It was far from obvious that she would land the role as Annie Reed in Sleepless in Seattle. In fact, she was the sixth choice and both Julia Roberts, Kim Basinger, and Michelle Pfeiffer were offered the role but said no.
Meg Ryan declined a part in the acclaimed film The Silence of the Lambs after the popularity of Sleepless in Seattle. Instead, she concentrated on romantic comedies, which were what made her successful.
However, the actress decided in 1996 that she needed a new part to push her. Meg Ryan played a much darker character alongside Denzel Washington and Matt Damon in the war thriller Courage Under Fire.
When the movie debuted in 1996 and became a box office hit, Ryan appeared to have little chance of failing. 1998, one of her strongest years professionally, saw the continuation of her success story. Everything was set up for another movie office blockbuster when she co-starred with Nicolas Cage in the romantic comedy City of Angels.
She reteamed with Tom Hanks for You’ve Got Mail the same year, and it turned out to be another career-defining performance. The story of the movie is around two adversaries who fall in love after they begin emailing one another without realizing who the other is. The movie is set in an era when emails and the internet were just starting to become a part of our daily lives.
Meg received her third Golden Globe Award nomination for the movie and the New York Times wrote:
“Ms. Ryan plays her role blithely and credibly this time, with an air of freshness, a minimum of cute fidgeting, and a lot of fond chemistry with Mr. Hanks.”
Talk about a perfect way to close out a golden decade for the actress!
But if the 1990s were a decade of success for the actress, the 2000s proved to be considerably harder. The all-American good girl had a rough start to the new decade with a few failures and a lot of stress in her personal life.
Rumors of a relationship started to spread when she appeared in Proof of Life alongside Russell Crowe. In 2000, Ryan and her husband jointly announced their separation.
Ryan was attacked and scandalized by the press for having an affair with Russel Crowe while she was married during this trying time in her personal life. Naturally, the affair made headlines because her actions didn’t line up with how the public perceived their favorite girl-next-door.
Many people were unaware that Ryan’s marriage to Dennis Quaid was in ruins when she started seeing Russell Crowe.
Although it was far from ideal, their marriage was frequently portrayed as a Hollywood fairytale of love.
“It was a great story. But what wasn’t in the story was the reality of my marriage for nine years. Dennis was not faithful to me for a long time, and that was very painful. I found out more about that once I was divorced,” Meg Ryan explained in 2008.
According to Meg Ryan, dating her Proof of Life co-star had nothing to with her divorce to Dennis Quaid.
“I think he took a big hit, but Russell didn’t break up the marriage. He was definitely there at the end, but it wasn’t his fault,” Ryan explained and continued:
“The public and the press tuned in way after. The reasons we broke up have nothing to do with another person,” she mentioned.
For obvious reasons, her ex-husband wasn’t pleased with Ryan’s comments years after their high-profile divorce.
“It was eight years ago, and I find it unbelievable that Meg continues publicly to rehash and rewrite the story of our relationship,” he remarked.
While Meg Ryan called their relationship a “very unhealthy marriage,” Dennis Quaid has more fond memories of their union.
“Sure, I still love her,” Quaid explained. “I’m very fond of her, and we have a lot of fun. We spent 13 good years together. We had a kid together, and we shared so much: she made my life.”
Ryan and Quaid would always share a unique link with their son even if they parted ways.
When their son, Jack Quaid, was born in 1992, he continued in his parents’ footsteps. The actor is currently 29 years old. Jack made his acting debut in the film The Hunger Games, and since then, he has starred in other TV shows and motion pictures.
Meg Ryan took a three-year break from acting following her highly publicized divorce during the most trying time in her life. She wanted to put her family first, and it appears that she and her son had a close relationship.
As an illustration, they collaborated in 2015 when Meg directed Jack in a short film.
“It’s lucky that I got to grow up saying, ‘Hey, I want to be an actor’ and they understood that. I didn’t grow up in a house that didn’t quite understand what that meant or a house that would tell me, ‘Oh that probably isn’t the wisest choice, you should have a backup plan,’” Jack said.
In the mid-’00s, Meg Ryan saw a few career setbacks, and her star status had begun to decline. She focused more and more on her personal life and decided to expand her family.
As a single mother, she adopted a 14-month-old baby girl from China. She was named Daisy and welcomed her to the family in 2006.
“I just really wanted a baby; I was on a mission to connect with somebody, and Daisy and I got to meet each other this way at this time. We are so compatible. And also having the experience of having had Jack and now to have Daisy in a different way — there’s no difference in the love you feel,” Ryan told Redbook magazine in 2007.
Meg Ryan’s last significant role came in 2008, when she starred in The Women, a comedy-drama. After that, she stepped away from acting and remained out of the spotlight for a while.
As mentioned, she tried her hand at directing in Ithaca, but it seemed like it wasn’t her cup of tea. Over the last several years, the former all-American girl and mega star has only made minor acting appearances.
“I wasn’t as curious about acting as I was about other things that life can give you. I wanted to live more,” she continued:
“I don’t feel like, naturally, I’m a performer. I knew I was being given opportunities and that there was certain music I could play as an actor. Certain things I could do. And I liked acting. I thought it was fun. But acting was a situation I was navigating.”
Of course, many have wondered what has happened to Meg Ryan in recent years because she does not appear on the white screen as often.
In my world, Meg Ryan looks the same as when she broke through in Hollywood; her face is so associated with those beautiful romantic comedies she made.
So maybe that’s why I was a little surprised when I saw her today. But of course, actresses also age. Meg Ryan has turned 61 – which you obviously can see in newer pictures of her. But she is still gorgeous and an incredibly talented woman.
Today now tries to write romantic comedies, and she also helps produce a show for NBC.
“I’m also teeing myself up to direct, and I’m working on a fun e-commerce project with some of my friends,” the former actress said in 2019.
She is also active on Instagram, where she has over 600,000 followers.
“Like anything if it’s overindulged, then it’s a problem”, Meg Ryan Ryan told Instyle and explained: “But I appreciate hearing from—well, not everyone [laughs]—but hearing directly from people, because it allows for more of a complexity in the understanding of a person. It’s never black and white. No story is ever as simple as a headline.”
According to a source close to Meg Ryan, a comeback on the movie scene is not inconceivable and that Ryan is “ready to conquer Hollywood once again.”
Thanks for all the memories Meg and good luck in the future!