Renowned for her iconic roles in ’90s romantic comedies like “You’ve Got Mail” and “Sleepless in Seattle,” Meg Ryan is making a remarkable comeback to the big screen following an eight-year absence from acting. At 61 years old, Ryan, who captivated audiences as America’s sweetheart, is revisiting her rom-com origins with the upcoming film “What Happens Later,” a project she co-wrote and directed. In this movie, Ryan takes on the role of Willa, a character stranded overnight at an airport with a former lover portrayed by David Duchovny.
Ryan shared a glimpse of the film’s essence with Entertainment Weekly, alluding to the tantalizing uncertainty of whether her character and her ex-lover will rekindle their romance. She mentioned, “For that reason, [What Happens Later] sort of evolves the rom-com genre just a little bit. It’s also about old people, and it’s still romantic and sexy.”
This return to the screen marks Ryan’s first on-screen appearance since her role in 2015’s “Ithaca,” which she also directed. Despite her mastery of romantic comedies, Ryan’s career ventured beyond the genre into successful dramatic roles. However, her presence in Hollywood waned over the past decade for various reasons that she herself disclosed.
In a rare public appearance in 2018, Ryan participated in the In Goop Health wellness summit, where she engaged in a conversation with Gwyneth Paltrow about her departure from Hollywood. During this discussion, she candidly explained that she had been more reactive than proactive in her career choices. Ryan confessed, “I didn’t really aim to be an actor.” Her academic background in journalism and her curiosity about her identity in relation to the world led her to explore diverse paths beyond acting. The complexities of fame also played a role in her decision, as she navigated the pressure of public perception.
Ryan questioned the implications of labels like “America’s sweetheart,” a title often attributed to her. She remarked, “When you get labeled anything like ‘America’s sweetheart,’ I didn’t even know what that meant.”
In a 2019 interview with the New York Times Magazine, Ryan revealed that her absence from the spotlight was due to feeling emotionally drained. She expressed, “I felt in a crazy way that, as an actor, I was burning through life experiences.” Her numerous roles led her to portray characters with diverse life experiences, and she began to feel disconnected from her own sense of self. She described feeling isolated in both her fame and within the entertainment industry.
Ryan’s hiatus from Hollywood allowed her to prioritize her personal life. In 2019, she told People magazine that she had found contentment in her life. Over the previous decade, her main focus had been on her two children: actor Jack Quaid and Daisy True, whom she adopted in 2006. Her off-and-on relationship with John Mellencamp was another aspect of her life during this period. This relationship eventually ended in 2019. Ryan’s newfound priorities centered around her children’s happiness and well-being, emphasizing her role as a mother.
In conclusion, Meg Ryan’s return to acting after an extended hiatus marks a significant moment in her career. Her time away from Hollywood was influenced by a variety of factors, including her desire to explore different aspects of life and her need to reconnect with her personal identity. This hiatus also allowed her to embrace her role as a devoted mother to her two children. With her return, fans and critics alike are eagerly anticipating Ryan’s latest cinematic endeavor and the new chapter it represents in her storied career.