How Nora Ephron ‘Saved the Romantic Comedy’ with fractious Tom Hanks

Legendary good man Tom Hanks was kind of a jerk on the set of “Sleepless in Seattle.” And “America’s Sweetheart” Meg Ryan incited a little green when the span filmed “You’ve Got Mail.”

Oh, and that famous fake-orgasm stage in “When Harry Met Sally”? It wasn’t Nora Ephron’s invention — yet she’s perceived solitary credit for everyone’s favorite open consummate opposite the years.

The new book “I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s Three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy” delivers a pleasure of buzzy Hollywood backstories unearthed by maestro party publisher Erin Carlson.

The book also serves as a reverence to Ephron, the hit film director, bestselling author and author of two Broadway shows — including “Lucky Guy,” the story of Daily News columnist Mike McAlary.

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Playwright and film executive Nora Ephron (l.) and actor Tom Hanks arrive at the Barrymore Theatre in New York, Thursday, Dec. 12, 2002.


Hanks, Ryan, Rob Reiner and a horde of others supposing fresh interviews about Ephron, with good results.

Ephron was hired in 1984 to write “When Harry Met Sally” for Reiner and his co-producer, Andy Scheinman. The grounds was set: Can a man and a lady ever just be friends?

In one meeting, Reiner agonized that Meg Ryan’s character, Sally, indispensable to dump a big exhibit about women that would jolt Harry, played by his close crony Billy Crystal.

Scheinman had just “the thing.” His girlfriend’s sister, Dani Minnick, a indication famous for a series of cigarette commercials, Virginia Slims, had confided that women feign orgasms.

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I'll Have What She's Having: How Nora Ephron's Three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy by Erin Carlson

“I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s Three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy” by Erin Carlson

Reiner was blindsided, refusing to trust Ephron when she insisted it was true. Ordering several womanlike staffers into his office, the bearishly built executive shouted what sounded like an accusation:


Yes, they all said. “The thing” went into the script.

While it was Ryan’s thought to act out the elaborately calculated orgasm, she froze when it came to filming the scene. It fell to Reiner to offer a demonstration.

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Ephron got all the credit for Meg Ryan's iconic feign orgasm onscreen with Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally, but Rob Reiner and Andy Scheinman concocted the idea.

Ephron got all the credit for Meg Ryan’s iconic feign orgasm onscreen with Billy Crystal in “When Harry Met Sally,” but Rob Reiner and Andy Scheinman concocted the idea.

(Columbia Pictures)

The executive took the chair in Katz’s Deli next to Crystal and opposite from Ryan, all too wakeful his mom Estelle sat just a few tables over. Reiner had hired mom to broach the famous line, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

Estelle had told Reiner she was happy to sign on just to spend a day with her son. “I’ll come,” she said. “I’ll have a prohibited dog.”

Estelle, in her early 70s, got so much more.

Reiner, ashamed at having to approach “a lady on how to feign an orgasm in front of my mother,” manned up and started pulsation the table, breathing aloud while shouting, “Oh God! Oh God!”

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Aaron Barsky, the partner director, remembers Crystal as uncertain in his “first heading role.” He leaned heavily on his friend Reiner for soundness — so much so that Ryan felt excluded.

Reports flush that the co-stars were hardly speaking at points. “I felt like we was doing my work in my trailer,” Ryan certified later.

Tom Hanks eventually starred as Daily News Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Mike McAlary in Lucky Guy, created by Ephron, in a singular Broadway run.

Tom Hanks eventually starred as Daily News Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Mike McAlary in “Lucky Guy,” created by Ephron, in a singular Broadway run.

(©2012 Joan Marcus)

But by the time the film wrapped and Harry had Sally in his arms, everybody was on good terms.

Ephron connected deeply with Ryan on the “boy’s set,” and rushed the blond singer a duplicate of her final book for “Sleepless in Seattle” in 1992.

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“We’ve got to do this together,” Ephron insisted. Ryan agreed.

Ephron then instituted the “difficult conversation” where she sensitive Ryan that her then-husband, Dennis Quaid, wasn’t right for the role of Sam Baldwin.


Meg Ryan as Annie Reed (l.) Ross Malinger as Jonah Baldwin (c.) and Tom Hanks as Sam Baldwin (r.) in a stage from “Sleepless in Seattle.” Hanks was worried about the child getting the “good lines” in the film.


The studio was going with Tom Hanks.

In fact, Ephron wasn’t sole on casting Hanks. The Oscar-winning actor was heedful of her, too.

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“I was an intensely fractious actor at that time,” removed Hanks. “Coming in and saying, ‘Why does the child have so many good lines?’

“I had done adequate cinema to get smoked on a couple of occasions as good as meditative that we was a big shot and ‘My voice must be heard.’”

Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron

(Misha Erwitt/New York Daily News)

Long after Ephron and Hanks staid their differences, “the kid” still presented problems. The role of Jonah, the eight-year-old son who plays matchmaker, went creatively to Nathan Watt.

On the shoot’s first weekend, after a few days of rehearsal, Watt was fired. Hanks and the child weren’t connecting. Producer Gary Foster had already put in an emergency call to an behaving coach.

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“Tom is being driven crazy and this child keeps repeating dialog off-camera when Tom’s trying to film a stage and he’s not adding to the film right now,” he said.

Once Watt was gone, Ross Malinger was brought in to play Jonah — even yet Ephron disliked his “chipmunk chin” and the fat around his neck. The author was famously a captious in all things.

Exported.; EXP;

Mike McAlary (r.) shakes hands with Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman after winning the Pulitzer Prize for columns on Abner Louima, victim of police brutality.

(Savulich, Andrew)

“She could cut you like a knife if you done a mistake,” says associate writer Jim Skotchdopole, an Ephron ally.

The next casting plea was the Empire State Building, pivotal to the film’s final romantic scene.

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Management at the iconic Midtown skyscraper refused to close its regard rug to tourists for filming.

Ephron, who knew every energy player in New York, reached out to open family guru Howard Rubenstein. He took his “impassioned plea” to the sovereign jail where the building’s owner, the infamously conceited Leona Helmsley, was portion 18 months for taxation evasion.

Rob Reiner

Rob Reiner

(Richard Corkery /New York Daily News )

The Queen of Mean relented.

By the time Ephron, Hanks and Ryan reunited for “You’ve Got Mail” in 1997, it had the feel of a family reunion. Except Ryan had incited difficult.

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“She was just some-more demanding on that movie!” recalls Delia, Ephron’s sister and co-writer. “She just indispensable some-more stuff, and she wasn’t totally happy.”

In “You’ve Got Mail,” Ryan’s impression Kathleen Kelly owns a beloved children’s bookstore on the Upper West Side. Her outpost is threatened by the outrageous corporate bookstore plonked down opposite the street by Joe Fox (Hanks).

Actor Tom Hanks gestures towards the correspondence of the playwright Nora Ephron after the premiere of the play Lucky Guy in New York on Apr 1, 2013.

Actor Tom Hanks gestures towards the correspondence of the playwright Nora Ephron after the premiere of the play “Lucky Guy” in New York on Apr 1, 2013.


He’s her nemesis, solely she’s unknowingly descending in adore with him online.

It was a ideal Meg Ryan role, but …

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“She was getting to a point, really, where she was commencement to feel ‘I don’t know if we still wish to be Meg Ryan,’” says dress engineer Albert Wolsky.

Ryan was at the start of a catastrophic slide. In 2000, the singer dubbed “America’s Sweetheart” tricked her fervent fans when she began a ardent event with Russell Crowe on the set of “Proof of Life.”


Ephron, who knew every energy player in New York, reached out to open family guru Howard Rubenstein (pictured) to “cast” the Empire State Building in “Sleepless in Seattle.”

(Watts, Susan)

Ryan followed the liaison by making grittier choices, like the amorous thriller “In the Cut” and the fighting tale “Against the Ropes.”

Both failed. Fans had incited their backs on the darling actress.


After “You’ve Got Mail,” Ephron didn’t measure again at the box bureau until “Julie and Julia” in 2009. Her rarely expected “Bewitched,” starring Nicole Kidman, had moviegoers throwing popcorn at the screen 4 years earlier.

That same year, Hanks incited her down prosaic when she approached him with a book formed on the life of New York columnist McAlary, who won the Pulitzer Prize shortly before his death from cancer in 1998.

Many saw McAlary’s hard-won exposé of the sadistic abuse of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima by cops as heroic. But Hanks just didn’t like the guy.

In 2011, though, Hanks’ feelings changed when he schooled Jon Hamm — at the tallness of “Mad Man” insanity — was sniffing around the role.


Empire State Building owners Leona Helmsley relented to Rubenstein's pleas in the end.

Empire State Building owners Leona Helmsley relented to Rubenstein’s pleas in the end.

(Keith Bedford/Getty Images)

“Lucky Guy,” starring Hanks, had a hugely successful singular run on Broadway a year after Ephron’s death.

Hanks had kept at Ephron, wanting to know because she was so preoccupied by McAlary. She certified she wasn’t a sold fan of his columns or career.

It was the play’s director, Geoffrey Wolfe, who finally clued Hanks in, pity Ephron’s respond when he posed the same question.

“This play is about somebody who has some-more fitness than talent,” Ephron explained, practically reflecting on her own prolonged fibre of successes. “And we know something about that.”

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