powered by AFI
In 1992, Academy Award nominated writer Nora Ephron made her directorial debut with the box office disappointment This is My Life starring Julie Kavner. The following year however, Ephron struck gold. The romantic comedy Sleepless in Seattle, which Ephron co-wrote and directed, cost $22 million to make, but earned $126 million at U.S. box offices alone. It also became known as "the" date movie of 1993.
The film follows its two main characters who live on opposite sides of the United States. In Seattle, widower Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) is trying to start a new life for himself and his young son, Jonah (Ross Malinger). Jonah recognizes his father is having trouble coping with his loss and calls a radio talk show for advice. Jonah eventually puts a reluctant Sam on the phone. In Baltimore, Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) hears Sam describe his magical relationship with his wife. Even though she is already engaged, Annie becomes obsessed with the man dubbed "Sleepless in Seattle."
Later, Annie and her best friend, Becky (Rosie O'Donnell), discuss romance while watching the Cary Grant classic An Affair to Remember (1957). Annie comments, "Now that was when people KNEW how to be in love." Becky replies, "That's your problem! You don't want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie." Nora Ephron thought this was one of the intriguing aspects of Sleepless in Seattle and noted that "It had all these weird, wonderful ideas to play with, including all this stuff about what the movies do to your brain and how so many of our notions about romance are based on the movies we've seen."
Ephron learned about movies at an early age thanks to her parents, screenwriters Henry and Phoebe Ephron. Their work includes the films, Carousel (1956), Daddy Long Legs (1955), and Desk Set (1957). The Ephrons also wrote a play loosely based on letters Nora sent them from Wellesley College. The play was later made into the film Take Her, She's Mine (1963) with Sandra Dee and Jimmy Stewart.
Nora Ephron began her career as a journalist for The New York Post. She then went on to write the semi-autobiographical novel Heartburn, which was made into a film in 1986. Ephron received Academy Award nominations for her screenplays for Silkwood (1983) and When Harry Met Sally (1989). She received her third nomination for co-writing the script for Sleepless in Seattle.
Tom Hanks initially turned down the role of Sam Baldwin thinking he wasn't right for the part, but later changed his mind after Nora Ephron rewrote the script. Hanks liked that the role was more serious than the parts he'd played in his earlier movies. In describing his character, Hanks stated, "The guy is enmeshed in grieving, and no one has to work hard in buying that attractive premise, as opposed to a guy who gets off the airline and picks up the wrong suitcase and it's full of uranium."
It may be easy to understand Sam Baldwin, but it was more difficult for Ephron to build a love story between two characters before they ever even meet. In The Films of Tom Hanks, authors Lee Pfeiffer and Michael Lewis describe one of the ways Ephron helped bridge the gap between Sam and Annie, "Ryan was going in one door in Baltimore while Hanks was going through another in Seattle. To seal a bond between the actors, Ephron actually had the same door transported between the cities."
After the success of Sleepless in Seattle, many people eagerly awaited another film teaming Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. In 1998, Nora Ephron paired them up again in the romantic comedy You've Got Mail, a modern version of the Ernst Lubitsch film The Shop Around the Corner (1940).
Director: Nora Ephron
Producer: Gary Foster
Screenplay: Nora Ephron, David S. Ward, and Jeff Arch. Story by Jeff Arch.
Cinematography: Sven Nykvist
Art Direction: Charley Beal, Gershon Ginsburg
Music: Marc Shaiman
Cast: Tom Hanks (Sam Baldwin), Meg Ryan (Annie Reed), Ross Malinger (Jonah Baldwin), Rosie O'Donnell (Becky), Bill Pullman (Walter), Rob Reiner (Jay), David Hyde Pierce (Dennis Reed), Rita Wilson (Suzy), Calvin Trillin (Uncle Milton).
C-106m. Letterboxed.Closed captioning.
by Deborah Looney