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If you’re a romantic-comedy buff, chances are you’ve seen When Harry Met Sally. The 1989 classic is regarded as one of the bests in the genre and attempts to answer the question of all questions: Can men and women really be just friends?
Led by an all-star cast, including Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, and Carrie Fisher, and directed by comedy legend Rob Reiner (who also made The Princess Bride), the film follows Harry and Sally. The characters meet when she gives him a ride to New York from Chicago after they both graduated from college, and their friendship evolves throughout the years. Casual run-ins result in a friendship that forces them to decide whether or not there should (or even could) be more to their relationship.
Oh and the movie also gave way to one of the most iconic quotes in cinematic history: “I’ll have what she’s having.” Who came up with that line? Who was offered the role of Harry before Billy? And how did the movie almost end? Dive into those answers and many more surprising facts about When Harry Met Sally right here.
Tom Hanks was originally offered the role of Harry.
And, at least according to IMDB, Albert Brooks, Michael Keaton, Harrison Ford, and Bill Murray were also considered before producers landed on Billy Crystal.
Molly Ringwald almost played Sally.
However, Meg Ryan, who had never been the lead in a movie before, was able to convince director Rob Reiner she was right for the part, and he cast her instead.
The inspiration for the movie came from the writer and director’s friendship.
In a way, Nora Ephron and Rob Reiner are the real-life Harry and Sally. Everything from their little personality quirks to their candid discussions about men and women inspired the material for the characters.
The film was originally called ‘How They Met.’
The creative team had a tough time figuring out exactly what to call this film, so Rob Reiner held a title-naming contest, rewarding the best pitch with a full case of champagne. Nora Ephron also came up with Boy Meets Girl, Just Friends, words of loveand Harry, This is Sally.
Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan immediately hit if off.
The chemistry between the stars was critical, so production knew they had to get the casting right. Once Billy and Meg got into the audition together, the chemistry was instant. billy told Entertainment Weekly“Meg came in, and we didn’t even read a scene, and we all knew it was her. It’s just one of those indefinable things that when we started talking, we were them already, you know?”
And that iconic line is delivered by someone on set’s mother.
Following the, ehem, performance put on by Meg Ryan’s character in the deli, the scene cuts to a nearby patron who tells a waiter, “I’ll have what she’s having.” The “Older Woman Customer” (as she’s credited in the film) is played by director Rob Reiner’s mom, Estelle.
Billy Crystal improvised a lot of the New Year’s Eve scene.
Which ones? Billy came up with, “I love the way your nose crinkles” and “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
The movie almost had a different ending.
Everyone loves a happy ending, which is why director Rob Reiner changed around the script’s initial ending — which saw both of the title characters going their separate ways. The inspiration for the change? Reiner fell in love while making the film, so he felt the characters deserved a happier fate.
Harry eating grapes on the road trip wasn’t in the script.
“I wanted to make him a little bit rougher around the edges to start. So we came up with this idea of him eating the grapes [during the road trip],” director Rob Reiner recalled. “[Billy] said, ‘I can just be spitting the seeds out the window.’ That’s what gave Harry a little bit more abruptness. Billy and I just came up with that on set as we were doing it.”
The movie was a launching pad for Meg Ryan.
Following the success of When Harry Met Sally, the film’s screenplay writer Nora Ephron (center) and Meg went on to collaborate on three more huge projects together: Sleepless in Seattle (1993), You’ve Got Mail (1998), and hanging-up (2000).
One of the actors is related to a former president.
Actor Steven Ford, who portrayed Harry’s neighbor/Sally’s boyfriend Joe, is actually the son of former US President Gerald Ford. He later appeared in Armageddon, black hawk downand transformers.
Critics didn’t give the film great reviews.
At the time of the film’s release, New York Times called it an “amazingly hollow film,” and Roger Ebert said it was “most conventional, in terms of structure and the way it fulfills our expectations.” It wasn’t all negative, however, as many had positive things to say about the movie’s humor and the chemistry between the actors.
And Billy Crystal thought it was going to bomb.
Because the film was opening against big-budget summer blockbusters like Batman and Indiana Jones and the Last CrusadeBilly had little hope for a big box office return. To combat the competition, the studio released the film in just a few theaters the first week to allow for positive word-of-mouth to spread — a tactic that seemingly paid off.
Surprise! It was a box office hit.
Director Rob Reiner was worried about working with Billy Crystal.
Sometimes it’s best not to mix work and play, and that’s exactly why Reiner was apprehensive about working with his best friend, Billy Crystal. “The fear I had was, ‘What if you would [work] with a friend and it doesn’t work out, are we going to destroy a friendship?” Reiner expressed. “I had no reservations about him playing the part, I just wanted to make sure.”
A clue about director Rob Reiner’s next project was hidden in the film.
In the movie, Harry can be seen reading Stephen King’s Misery. It’s a non-trivial moment that reveals what director Reiner would go on to make next — the James Caan and Kathy Bates thriller was released just one year later.
One of the film’s sets inspired another Nora Ephron movie.
The Shakespeare and Co. bookstore (aka where Harry and Sally run into each other) inspired Nora Ephron/Meg Ryan’s You’ve Got Mail.
Inspiration struck Nora when the location closed down shortly after a Barnes & Noble opened up nearby — making way for the film’s commentary about large chains versus local stores.
You can live at one of the filming locations.
The first-floor ballroom in Manhattan’s Puck Building, located at 295 Lafayette Street and Houston Street, was the setting for the big New Year’s Eve party at the end of the film. The multi-use structure has luxury penthouses at the top of the building that go for a cool $36 million.
You can also sit at the same table as Harry and Sally.
The location where the characters share their iconic scene is a real restaurant, specifically Katz’s Delicatessen in New York City. Established in 1888, the historic deli is proud of its little mark on Hollywood history and the table where the scene was shot is honored with a sign.
The “baby fishmouth” scene was totally improvised.
When Harry and Sally get together with a group of friends, a game of Pictionary breaks out, making way for one of the film’s most memorable scenes. According to Reiner, he didn’t direct Meg on what to sketch, he just gave her the word: baby talk. So she just went for it, which led to the other actors spewing out hilarious non-scripted guesses, including “baby fishmouth.”
Harry Connick Jr. earned his first Grammy for his work on the film’s soundtrack.
Relative newcomer, Harry Connick Jr., produced original pieces for the album. The soundtrack went double-platinum and won Harry his first Grammy Award for Best Jazz Male Vocal Performance.
The movie had a modest budget.
The film was shot in New York City with a budget of $16 million (approximately $36 million today). That’s less than half of what Ghostbuster’s II cost to produce, the other big comedy of 1989.
It was nominated for an Oscar.
It’s rare for a rom-com to snag an Academy Award nomination, but When Harry Met Sally did just that! The movie’s screenplay writer, Nora Ephron, received an Oscar nom for Best Writing, but the trophy went to Dead Poets Society. It wasn’t a total loss for Nora, though, as she took home a BAFTA (British Academy and Television Film Award) for Best Original Screenplay.
Rob Reiner makes a cameo in the film.
During the New Year’s Eve party scene, someone can be heard saying, “Hey everybody, 10 seconds until New Year!” The actor who says the line? Yep, that’s director Rob Reiner.
The premiere was a royal event.
As seen here, the Princess of Wales, Princess Diana, chats with stars Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal at the London red carpet premiere of When Harry Met Sally. The film debuted overseas in London’s West End on November 30, 1989.
The film was adapted into a stage show.
When Harry Met Sally was such a success on the big screen that it was turned into a stage show, premiering in London’s West End in 2004. Luke Perry (Beverly Hills, 90210 ) and Alyson Hannigan (How I Met Your Mother ) stepped into the titular roles of Harry and Sally and were later replaced by Molly Ringwald and Michael Landes.
Billy Crystal has no interest in doing a sequel.
Listen, not every film should have a sequel. “As we got older, what would the movie about? ‘When Harry Left Sally?’ ‘When Sally Got Sick?’ Just let them be happy and where everybody wants them to be,” Billy told Variety. “For all of us who believe in happily ever after, that’s where they live.”
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