Meg Ryan has become an outstanding star in romantic comedy. Pert and cute, she elicits audience sympathy and has had the ability to create the elusive chemistry needed for romantic roles; and although she has been paired with TOM HANKS in some of her biggest hits, she has worked well with other leads.
Her first big film was Top Gun (1986), which starred TOM CRUISE, but her meeting with Dennis Quaid that same year was more important. She and Quaid appeared together in Innerspace (1987), and they costarred with each other in D.O.A. (1988). In When Harry Met Sally . . . (1989) she was responsible with costar BILLY CRYSTAL for one of the most memorable sequences in film history. The couple is seated at a restaurant when the Crystal character claims that he can tell if a woman is faking an orgasm.
The Ryan character proves him wrong, and her moans and cries prompt a matronly diner (played by director ROB REINER's mother) to order whatever it is that the Ryan character is eating. The following year, she appeared for the first time with Tom Hanks in Joe Versus the Volcano, and the chemistry between the two inspired writer-director Nora Ephron to comment, "They just look as if they go together."
In 1991, she married Quaid, and the couple appeared together in Flesh and Bone (1993), with Ryan cast in a rare dramatic role as an alcoholic. Sleepless in Seattle (1993), however, was her pivotal film. Under the sure hand of writerdirector Nora Ephron, she and Hanks established themselves as worthy successors to SPENCER TRACY and KATHARINE HEPBURN. Drawing on An Affair to Remember (1957), a quintessential woman's film, Sleepless in Seattle won praise for Ryan and Hanks - they both received Golden Globe nominations and were nominated for best on-screen duo by MTV.
In I.Q. (1994), she and TIM ROBBINS were the romantic leads, but she had a dramatic role as an alcoholic wife in When a Man Loves a Woman, a performance that won her Best Actress nominations from the Screen Actors Guild and MTV. After making the romantic comedy French Kiss (1995) with Kevin Kline, she played Capt. Karen Walden, a Gulf War pilot, in Courage under Fire (1996) with DENZEL WASHINGTON; then in Addicted to Love (1996), she was Maggie, a leather-clad, motorcycle-riding nutcase.
In 1998, she was in three films: In Hurlyburly, adapted from David Rabe's play, she had a small role in a film dominated by SEAN PENN, Kevin Spacey, and Garry Shandling; in City of Angels with NICOLAS CAGE, she played a pragmatic heart surgeon; and in You've Got Mail, she costarred again with Tom Hanks. The film, freely adapted from the Jimmy Stewart/Margaret Sullavan hit The Shop around the Corner (1940), featured competing bookstore owners who eventually discover true love through e-mail; the performance won her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy.
In 2000, Ryan starred in Hanging Up with DIANE KEATON, who also directed, as two of three sisters who face the coming cancer death of their father (WALTER MATTHAU). The screenplay was by Delia and Nora Ephron, adapted from the novel by Delia Ephron. With Nina Sadowski, Ryan produced Lost Souls (costarring WINONA RYDER and Ben Chaplin) for Prufrock Pictures in 2000, but Ryan's best picture of 2000 was Proof of Life, skillfully directed by Taylor Hackford, a kidnapping-and-ransom thriller in which RUSSELL CROWE organizes a rescue mission in an unnamed South American country to recover Meg Ryan's husband (David Morse), captured by terrorists and held in the mountains.
In 2001, Ryan teamed with Hugh Jackman in the fantasy Kate & Leopold. Jackman played Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, the eighth child and fourth son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who falls in love, of course, with Ryan. The gimmick here was time travel: Leopold, who came to New York in 1876, finds himself falling in love with Meg Ryan a century later. How could that be? Because a "mad" scientist (Liev Schrieber) discovers "a crack in the fabric of time." The film only grossed $22 million but demonstrated that even past the age of 40, Ryan was still ripe for romantic roles.
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1. Gilbert Andreson alias Broncho Billy and early Hollywood
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