Family & Companions
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, 1956-2010)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. Ryan next appeared in several episodes of Lisa Kudrow's comedy series "Web Therapy" (Showtime 2011-14). In 2014, she was announced as the voiceover of the sitcom "How I Met Your Dad," starring Greta Gerwig, but the show's pilot was not picked up.
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Made film debut in George Cukor's "Rich and Famous" as Candice Bergen's daughter
Cast in a regular role as Betsy Stewart in the CBS daytime drama "As the World Turns"
TV debut in the ABC Afterschool Special, "Amy and the Angel"
Appeared in Richard Fleischer's "Amityville 3D"
First adult role in features, "Top Gun"; played wife of naval aviator Nick 'Goose' Bradshaw (played by Anthony Edwards)
First oncreen pairing with future husband Dennis Quaid, "Innerspace"
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
First screen pairing with Tom Hanks in "Joe Versus the Volcano"; played multiple roles
Portrayed Pamela Morrison in Oliver Stone's biopic "The Doors"
Starred opposite Alec Baldwin in Craig Lucas' feature adaptation of his play, "Prelude to a Kiss"
Formed Fandango Films (renamed Prufrock Pictures), a production company based at FOX with business partner Kathryn Galan
Re-teamed with husband, Dennis Quaid for the dramatic "Flesh and Bone"
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
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
Renewed first-look production deal with FOX; Kathryn Galen replaced by Nina Sadowsky as president of Prufrock Pictures
Feature producing debut, "French Kiss" (also starred)
Portrayed an Army captain under investigation in the Persian Gulf drama "Courage Under Fire"
Provided the speaking voice of the title character in the animated feature "Anastasia"
Attempted to change her screen persona by playing a cynical photographer in "Addicted to Love"
Had dramatic supporting role in Anthony Drazan's "Hurlyburly"
Re-teamed with Quaid for the contemporary remake of "D.O.A."
Played a pragmatic heart surgeon opposite Nicholas Cage in "City of Angels," a remake of Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire"
Third teaming with Tom Hanks and writer/director Ephron in "You've Got Mail"; received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress
Began an off-screen affair with co-star Russell Crowe when they starred together in Taylor Hackford's "Proof of Life"
Starred opposite Hugh Jackman in the romantic comedy "Kate & Leopold"
Directed by Jane Campion in the erotic thriller "In the Cut"
Portrayed the first female boxing manager in the film "Against the Ropes"
Cast as a struggling mother of two daughters in Jonathan Kasdan's directorial debut "In the Land of Women"
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
Had a recurring guest role on "Web Therapy"
Narrated the "How I Met Your Mother" spinoff, "How I Met Your Dad," which wasn't picked up for series broadcast
Made her directorial debut with war drama "Ithaca" (also starred)