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.

Darker roles

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.


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