Meg Ryan cemented her place as one of America’s sweethearts when she starred in some of the most lovable romantic leads of the 80s and 90s.
The charming actress with her blond shag haircut will forever be remembered for iconic movies like Sleepless In Seattle and You’ve Got Mail.
Back then, nothing indicated Ryan’s star would fade, but the fact is she completely disappeared from the big screen after 2018.
Today, the girl next door from the 90s stays out of the limelight, but the now 61-year-old Ryan recently showed up on the red carpet and raised some eyebrows…
I cannot be the only one who had a crush on Meg Ryan in the 80s and 90s. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty was the queen of rom-com, and there was a reason why she got the epithet “America’s sweetheart.”
Her star burned white hot for two decades when she was one of the most appreciated actresses in Hollywood.
But it was far from evident that Meg Ryan would be known around the world.
Born in 1961, Ryan grew up in Fairfield, Connecticut. Her father, Harry Hyra, was of Polish descent and a math teacher. Ryan’s mother, Susan Jordan, was also a teacher but had previously worked as an actress, so of course, being on stage ran in the family.
Changed her name
However, her parents split up in 1976 when Meg was only 15, and her relationship with her parents became tense later in life.
In fact, Meg would cut ties with her mother after a series of events. She also decided to change her surname to “Ryan,” her grandmother’s maiden name, when she registered herself with the Screen Actors Guild.
As a young woman, Ryan chose to study journalism at the University of Connecticut and then at New York University. Her time in college would change her life, but perhaps not in the direction many believed.
Meg Ryan started acting in TV commercials and soap operas to earn some extra money. Suddenly she landed a role in As the World Turns, and many producers heard about the talented, young actress.
Ryan dropped out of college and began pursuing a career in the entertainment industry. She had a mini-breakthrough in the blockbuster Top Gun when she made a colorful portrait of Carole Bradshaw, the wife of Nick “Goose” Bradshaw (Anthony Edwards).
The romantic action movie became the highest-grossing film of 1986 and helped Meg Ryan land bigger roles.
She also found love on the set of Top Gun. She started dating her co-star and on-screen husband, Anthony Edwards. The couple dated for a while and even moved in together.
In 1987, Ryan appeared in the science fiction movie Innerspace, along with his future husband, Dennis Quaid.
“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.”
Queen of rom-coms
Her rise to stardom catapulted when she got the lead role in the romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally … Ryan portrayed Sally Albright played alongside Billy Cristal. The film wasn’t a hit among critics, but today it’s regarded as a cult rom-com classic.
The movie would also lay the foundation for Meg Ryan’s unthreatening place as the queen of rom-coms.
In 1993, Meg Ryan teamed up with Tom Hanks in another romantic comedy success – Sleepless in Seattle. Once again, the cutesy “girl-next-door” captivated the cinema audience and was praised for 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.
Following the success of Sleepless in Seattle, Meg Ryan turned down a role in the famous movie The Silence of the Lambs. Instead, she focused on what made her successful; romantic comedies.
But in 1996, the actress felt she wanted to challenge herself with a different role. So in the war drama Courage Under Fire, Meg Ryan starred alongside Denzel Washington and Matt Damon in a much darker role.
The film, which premiered in 1996, was a box office success, and at that time, it felt like Ryan couldn’t fail. Her success story continued in 1998, one of the best years of her career. Co-starring with Nicolas Cage in the romantic comedy City of Angels, everything was set up for another box office success. And once again, Meg Ryan was hailed by critics, and the movie grossed nearly $200 million.
That same year, another career-defining role came when she teamed up again with Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail. The film, which takes place during the era when emails and the internet were entering our lives, evolves around two rivals who fall in love with each other when they start emailing each other without knowing the other person’s true identity.
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 90s were a decade of success, the 00s became much more challenging for the actress. She started the new decade with a few flops, and the all-American good girl faced a lot of drama in her personal life.
When she starred opposite Russel Crowe in Proof of Life, rumors of a romance began to take off. At the same time, Ryan and her husband announced their separation in 2000.
During this turbulent time in her private life, Ryan was hammered and scandalized by the tabloids for being involved with Russel Crowe while she was married. Her behavior didn’t match the public’s view on their favorite girl-next-door, so of course, the affair made headlines.
Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe
What many people didn’t knew was that Ryan’s and Dennis Quaid marriage was in shatters, even before the actress started dating Russel Crowe.
Their marriage was often painted as a fairytale of love and the perfect Hollywood marriage, but it was far from that.
“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 told InStyle Magazine 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 said.
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 told the New York Daily News.
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 told Independent. “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.”
Meg Ryan’s son
Even if Ryan and Quaid went their separate ways, they would always have a special bond because of their son.
Their son, Jack Quaid, was born in 1992, and the now 29-year-old actor has followed in his parents’ footsteps. Jack made his debut in the movie The Hunger Games, and after that, he has appeared in many TV series and films over the years.
When Meg Ryan experienced the most turbulent period in her life, she took a three-year pause from acting after the highly publicized divorce. She wanted to focus on her family, and it seems like she has a solid bond with her son.
For example, they worked together in 2015 when Meg took a step behind the camera and directed Jack in the movie Ithaca.
“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 told Insider in 2022.
Meg Ryan daughter
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 told New York Times in 2019 and 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.”
Meg Ryan today
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.
As a result, she is not seen as often on the red carpet, but now and then, Meg Ryan appears during gala premieres.
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. The source told OK! Magazine in 2020 that Ryan is “ready to conquer Hollywood once again.”
It’s incredible to see Meg Ryan today and see that she still seems to have the desire to create and make an impression on the world.
Maybe she will never be as huge as in the 90s, but she has definitely made an ever-lasting impression on all of us who saw her fantastic films and rom-coms.
Thanks for all the memories and good luck in the future, Meg!