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Also Known As: Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra Died:
Born: November 19, 1961 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Fairfield, Connecticut, USA Profession: actor, producer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

During the 1990s, Meg Ryan was the queen of American romantic comedy - an updated Doris Day relentlessly touted as "America's Sweetheart" for her wholesome heroines in a steady string of mating mix-ups. Ryan embodied the cute, bubbly but befuddled objects of desire in Nora Ephron-penned hits "When Harry Met Sally" (1989), "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993) and "You've Got Mail" (1998) - films which earned her the rare following of both male and female fans who either wanted to take her home to mom or be her best shopping buddy. Ryan regularly sought to explore new territory outside of her well-worn but popular persona as a dizzy romantic stereotype, and she garnered some positive feedback for a SAG-winning performance as an alcoholic in "When a Man Loves a Woman" (1994) and a U.S. Army captain in "Courage Under Fire" (1996). Ryan's Hollywood A-List status took a dip in the new century when an extramarital affair with co-star Russell Crowe tarnished her girl-next-door image and spelled the end of her marriage to actor Dennis Quaid. When the scandal blew over and enough time had passed, she sought to reclaim her leading actress status, but by reinventing herself in more mature roles as middle-aged moms in...

During the 1990s, Meg Ryan was the queen of American romantic comedy - an updated Doris Day relentlessly touted as "America's Sweetheart" for her wholesome heroines in a steady string of mating mix-ups. Ryan embodied the cute, bubbly but befuddled objects of desire in Nora Ephron-penned hits "When Harry Met Sally" (1989), "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993) and "You've Got Mail" (1998) - films which earned her the rare following of both male and female fans who either wanted to take her home to mom or be her best shopping buddy. Ryan regularly sought to explore new territory outside of her well-worn but popular persona as a dizzy romantic stereotype, and she garnered some positive feedback for a SAG-winning performance as an alcoholic in "When a Man Loves a Woman" (1994) and a U.S. Army captain in "Courage Under Fire" (1996). Ryan's Hollywood A-List status took a dip in the new century when an extramarital affair with co-star Russell Crowe tarnished her girl-next-door image and spelled the end of her marriage to actor Dennis Quaid. When the scandal blew over and enough time had passed, she sought to reclaim her leading actress status, but by reinventing herself in more mature roles as middle-aged moms in comedic crisis.

Ryan was born Margaret Hyra on Nov. 19, 1961. Her parents - both elementary school teachers - raised their family in Fairfield, CT until their divorce when Ryan was a teen. Growing up, Ryan was a fan of the classic Hollywood glamour queens from the 1930s and 1940s, though she, herself, was a preppy suburban teen with dreams of pursuing journalism as a career. She was working towards a journalism degree at New York University when she first got into show business, initially appearing in commercials to make some money. During her final year of school, the acting opportunities were too numerous to turn down and she left school to pursue them full time. She made her film debut at age 20 playing Candice Bergen's teen daughter in the female-centric feature "Rich and Famous" (1981) before turning to TV, where a few made-for-TV movie performances led to a recurring role on the short lived sitcom "One of the Guys" (NBC, 1982), starring Mickey Rooney and a young Dana Carvey. In 1982, Ryan joined the soap "As the World Turns" (CBS, 1956- )as Betsy Montgomery, and her unrequited love story with out-of-bounds character Steve boosted the show's sagging ratings at that time.

After two years on "ATWT," Ryan headed out to Los Angeles, where her TV career receded into the distance and her film career began to gather speed. She first registered with movieg rs in a small but memorable role as Anthony Edwards' exuberant wife in Tony Scott's action hit "Top Gun" (1986). She was quickly bumped up to larger supporting roles, garnering some positive attention for her performance as a tough, desperate drifter in "Promised Land" (1987). In J Dante's sci-fi comedy "Innerspace" (1987) she played a journalist opposite Dennis Quaid, and the pair became romantically involved both on and off-screen. A newly minted couple, they headlined the unsuccessful noir remake "D.O.A." (1988). However, just as she was settling into romantic bliss with her more bankable movie star boyfriend, Ryan found her niche when she was cast opposite Billy Crystal in the wildly successful romantic comedy "When Harry Met Sally" (1989), directed by Rob Reiner and penned by Nora Ephron. Ryan augmented her girl-next-door cuteness with high maintenance flustering and hopeless romanticism - to say nothing of her over-the-top faking of an orgasm in a delicatessen - which won over audiences at first sight. In addition to earning the new star a Golden Globe nomination, the film more importantly made her an A-list star overnight. Off-screen, the bubbly blonde agreed to marry Quaid under the condition that he address his cocaine addiction, which he did. To the delight of fans and the popular media, the handsome pair was wed in 1989 and for years seemed the definition of a successful Hollywood union. The happy twosome gave birth to a son, Jack, in 1992. The only blight on Ryan's life was an estrangement from her mother, after she spoke to the press disapprovingly of her daughter's choice in men - namely the bad boy Quaid.

A proven box-office draw now, Ryan was cast opposite Tom Hanks in the flop "J Versus the Volcano" (1990), where she played several roles that ranged from ditzy to unconscious. Moving on to "spacey hippie," Ryan was seen as Jim Morrison's common-law wife in Oliver Stone's unintentional comedy "The Doors" (1991) and followed this up with the film adaptation of Craig Lucas' play "Prelude to a Kiss" (1992), where she tried to add some weight to her wide-eyed feistiness while playing an aspiring artist. Knowing her true niche, however, she found continued romantic comedy success (and a Golden Globe nomination) again with Ephron's hugely popular "Sleepless in Seattle" (1993), where she played a potentially perfect match for a widowed single dad. That success cemented Ryan's position as the romantic comedy "It Girl" of the 1990s as well as the weighty title of "America's Sweetheart." Attempts to go against type in the moody Texas-set romance "Flesh and Bone" (1993) - which starred her husband in their third outing together - and the better received "When a Man Loves a Woman" (1994) - in which Ryan played an alcoholic wife and mother - were less embraced by audiences who lined up to adore Ryan as a wholesome yet muddled romantic. At this time in her career, even her hairdo - the Meg Ryan shag - was just as popular as the actress herself.

Ryan delivered the charm in the 1950s-set romantic comedy "I.Q." playing an overly pragmatic mathematician niece of Albert Einstein (Walter Matthau) and love interest of a garage mechanic (Tim Robbins). The moderate hit was overshadowed by 1995's $100- million dollar earner "French Kiss," a predictably inane rom-com where befuddled Ryan played a jilted fiancée who gets involved with a jewel thief (Kevin Kline). The actress' attempts to stretch met with uneven success, but she attempted to branch out by undertaking the pivotal role of an Irish patient in a Quaker hospice who becomes romantically involved with a doctor (Robert Downey Jr.) in Michael Hoffman's drama "Restoration" (1995). She took on brainier characters including an Operation Desert Storm US Army captain in the hit courtroom drama "Courage Under Fire" (1996), and a surgeon romanced by a heavenly creature in "City of Angels" (1998), a runaway hit - albeit a ham-handed remake of Wim Wenders' Cannes winner, "Wings of Desire" (1987). Ryan flirted with indie film in the screen adaptation of "Hurlyburly" (1998), a limited release send-up of the film industry where she was a surprising sight as a drug-abusing go-go dancer involved with a second-rate actor.

Wrapping up a prolific year onscreen, Ryan teamed with Hanks and Ephron again with huge success in the holiday season release "You've Got Mail" (1998). A remake of the 1940 film "The Shop Around the Corner," this modern update involved New York bookstore-owning rivals wooing anonymously via email. Audiences lapped up the standard romantic mix-up to the tune of over $250 million dollars, but her next Ephron story "Hanging Up" (2000), did not interest movieg rs with its plot centered on three sisters (Ryan, Diane Keaton, Lisa Kudrow). Ryan's next departure - a starring role in the thriller "Proof of Life" (2000) - marked the end of the actress' over 10 year reign as a Hollywood A-lister and not because of its financial and critical failure. During production, Ryan began a romantic affair with co-star Russell Crowe, and the prudish press and public had a field day with word of the married actress' unsavory behavior. Nevermind it was Crowe who split up the couple. Because of Ryan's image of purity and "sweetheart" status, the brunt of criticism came down hard on the actress, who later admitted she was not emotionally prepared for that level of hatred directed her way. The relationship lasted less than a year, but it spelled the end of Ryan's and Quaid's seemingly storybook marriage.

When she emerged from the other side of her personal shake-up and professional nightmare, Ryan unveiled a new image - a tougher, sexier look and a new dramatic direction. She co-starred in the absurd, time-travel romantic comedy "Kate and Leopold" (2001) opposite Hugh Jackman before taking an obvious risk with a role in Jane Campion's thriller "In the Cut" (2003). Perhaps feeling she had nothing to lose now, she portrayed a dark, alienated woman with masochistic leanings, entering into a potentially troubling relationship with a police detective following a violent robbery. Baring the darker corners of her soul on screen as never before, Ryan also bared her body in controversial full frontal nude scenes that were both a Campion trademark and a radical departure from her previous fare. She took on another non-cupcake role as hard-hitting real-life female boxing promoter Jackie Kallen in "Against the Ropes" (2003), whose movie poster showcased a Ryan whose plastic surgery had rendered her newly enhanced face - particularly her lips - nearly unrecognizable from her adorably tousled former self. Neither film brought in significant audience numbers and Ryan spent several years off the screen regrouping while movieg rs had fallen for a new breed of rom-com heroines like Kate Hudson and Drew Barrymore.

Ryan tipt d back onto the movie screen in the little-seen coming-of-age comedy "The Land of Women" (2007), where she played a suburban wife and mom who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a 20-something writer who moves in next door to tend to an ailing grandparent. Accepting of her middle-aged mom casting status, she donned a fat suit for the straight-to-video comedy "My Mom's New Boyfriend" (2007) and the following year, starred in her first wide release in years, "The Women" (2008), a loose remake of the George Cukor classic that placed Ryan at the center of an all-female ensemble comedy, including multigenerational stars Eva Mendes, Annette Bening and Cloris Leachman. Based on her relatively successful repositioning and movieg rs' limited recollection of Ryan's earlier fall from favor, the actress lined up further screen projects, including the feature directorial debut from Cheryl Hines, the dark comedy "Serious Moonlight" (2009), where Ryan starred as a high-powered attorney who gets even with her philandering husband.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Ithaca (2015)

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Ithaca (2015)
2.
4.
 Deal, The (2008)
5.
 The Women (2008)
6.
7.
 Against the Ropes (2004) Jackie Kallen
8.
 Searching for Debra Winger (2003) Herself
9.
 In the Cut (2003) Frannie Thorstin
10.
 Kate & Leopold (2001) Kate Mckay
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1981:
Made film debut in George Cukor's "Rich and Famous" as Candice Bergen's daughter
1982:
TV debut in the ABC Afterschool Special, "Amy and the Angel"
1982:
Cast in a regular role as Betsy Stewart in the CBS daytime drama "As the World Turns"
1985:
Appeared in Richard Fleischer's "Amityville 3D"
1986:
First adult role in features, "Top Gun"; played wife of naval aviator Nick 'Goose' Bradshaw (played by Anthony Edwards)
1987:
First oncreen pairing with future husband Dennis Quaid, "Innerspace"
1998:
Re-teamed with Quaid for the contemporary remake of "D.O.A."
1989:
Breakthrough lead role opposite Billy Crystal in "When Harry Met Sally..."; film written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner; received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress
1990:
First screen pairing with Tom Hanks in "Joe Versus the Volcano"; played multiple roles
1991:
Portrayed Pamela Morrison in Oliver Stone's biopic "The Doors"
1992:
Starred opposite Alec Baldwin in Craig Lucas' feature adaptation of his play, "Prelude to a Kiss"
1993:
Re-teamed with husband, Dennis Quaid for the dramatic "Flesh and Bone"
1993:
Again paired with Tom Hanks in the hit romantic comedy "Sleepless in Seattle"; second collaboration with writer/director Ephron; received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress
1993:
Formed Fandango Films (renamed Prufrock Pictures), a production company based at FOX with business partner Kathryn Galan
1994:
Offered a fine dramatic turn as an alcoholic wife and mother in "When a Man Loves a Woman"; received a SAG nomination for Best Female Lead
1995:
Feature producing debut, "French Kiss" (also starred)
1995:
Renewed first-look production deal with FOX; Kathryn Galen replaced by Nina Sadowsky as president of Prufrock Pictures
1996:
Portrayed an Army captain under investigation in the Persian Gulf drama "Courage Under Fire"
1997:
Attempted to change her screen persona by playing a cynical photographer in "Addicted to Love"
1997:
Provided the speaking voice of the title character in the animated feature "Anastasia"
1998:
Played a pragmatic heart surgeon opposite Nicholas Cage in "City of Angels," a remake of Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire"
1998:
Third teaming with Tom Hanks and writer/director Ephron in "You've Got Mail"; received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress
1998:
Had dramatic supporting role in Anthony Drazan's "Hurlyburly"
2000:
Began an off-screen affair with co-star Russell Crowe when they starred together in Taylor Hackford's "Proof of Life"
2001:
Starred opposite Hugh Jackman in the romantic comedy "Kate & Leopold"
2003:
Directed by Jane Campion in the erotic thriller "In the Cut"
2004:
Portrayed the first female boxing manager in the film "Against the Ropes"
2007:
Cast as a struggling mother of two daughters in Jonathan Kasdan's directorial debut "In the Land of Women"
2008:
Played the central character of a woman whose husband has left her in Diane English's female ensemble "The Women," a remake of the 1936 play by Clare Boothe Luce
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

University of Connecticut: Storrs , Connecticut -
New York University: New York , New York -
Bethel High School: Bethel , Connecticut - 1979

Notes

Named Woman of the Year by Harvard's Hasty Puddding Theatricals in 1994.

"She is not 'pert' or 'perky' or soft at all. ... Meg is not to be messed around with. Some people havea tough job coming to terms with that." --Tom Hanks quoted in the London Times, June 14, 1998.

"I am just not a romantic. I am pragmatic or very sensible. But romantic? No. I can't think of the most romantic thing I've ever done or that has ever happened to me. I don't have my head in the clouds. My head is screwed on straight. I am not a sentimental person." --Meg Ryan to Garth Pearce in "She's a Fighter, Not a Lover" from the London Times, June 14, 1998.

"She has a rare gift. Even some great actors, even movie stars, don't have her gift. They rarely let people look right through them. What she is in films is what she is, which id a rare quality. She says to the audience, 'This is me, and I'm not phony and you can trust me.' She's not hiding behind her parts--she IS those parts. I like that. In her roles, she's saying 'I'm also giving of myself 100 percent'." --director Wim Wenders on Ryan quoted in Los Angeles Times, April 12, 1998.

"Fame is bizarre. As an end in itself, it's worthless. It's just a THING. It's also a test of character at times ... Sometimes I pass the test; sometimes I'm a pain in the ass. Sometimes I'm like, 'Oh, God! I just want to buy some tampons!'" --Meg Ryan to Vanity Fair, May 1995.

"I'm not sure being in hits is anything to aspire to. But I'm lucky, because I really like doing comedies, and they're usually an easier sell than a drama. I'm not a snob about it ... In fact, I think a television sitcom would be a great thing to do. I think it would be really fun to make your day all about finding the joke." --Ryan in Vanity Fair, May 1995.

"Nora Ephron ... called me America's Sweetheart, and, I don't know, I think that might have been a disservice. Not a disservice, but I would never in the world describe myself that way. I'm more ... I can be very relentless when I'm making a point, and sort of alienate people. I really have to catch that." --Ryan to Us, December 1994.

"I always think it's so shocking when couples break up and the men are instantly with other women. Women do't do that."-Ryan quoted in 1993 Premiere October 2, 2002

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Dennis Quaid. Actor. Met while filming "Innerspace" (1987); became engaged in 1989; married on February 14, 1991; also worked with Ryan on "D.O.A." (1988) and "Flesh and Bone" (1993); announced separation in June 2000; Quaid filed for divorce on July 12, 2000; Ryan countersued in August 2000; divorced on July 16, 2001.
companion:
Russell Crowe. Actor. Began highly publicized relationship during filming of "Proof of Life" in 2000; separated in December 2000.
companion:
Craig Bierko. Actor. Reportedly dating as of early 2002.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Harry Hyra. Teacher.
mother:
Susan Hyra. Teacher. Former actor and casting director; divorced from Ryan's father in 1976; reportedly got Ryan an audition for "Rich and Famous" (1981), director George Cukor's final film; estranged from Ryan since late 1980s.
step-father:
Pat Jordan. Journalist.
brother:
Andrew Hyra.
sister:
Dana Hyra.
sister:
Annie Hyra.
son:
Jack Henry Quaid. Born on April 24, 1992; father, Dennis Quaid.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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