Meg Ryan explains why she ‘took a giant break’ for eight years from acting

Meg Ryan was one of the IT actresses in the 1990s and early 2000s. Her career kicked off when she starred in 1986’s Top Gun and really soared after When Harry Met Sally in 1989. She made so many romantic comedies in the following decade that she was dubbed “America’s Sweetheart” by the press. In 2015, Meg directed her first movie, Ithaca, which she also starred in, and then promptly took an eight-year, self-imposed break from Hollywood. Meg’s break is over now, though! She’s starring in a new rom-com called What Happens Later with David Duchovny, which she also directed and co-wrote. So why did Meg take a Hollywood hiatus? Turns out she wanted to explore other aspects of her life.

“I took a giant break because I felt like there’s just so many other parts of my experience as a human being I wanted to develop,” she says, including her role as mom to her two kids, Jack, 31, with ex-husband Dennis Quaid, and Daisy, 18, whom she adopted in 2006.

“It’s nice to think of it as a job and not a lifestyle. And that is a great way of navigating it for me,” she says.

Now — eight years after her last film, her 2015 directorial debut, Ithaca — Ryan is finally back on the big screen. She stars in, directed and cowrote the new rom-com What Happens Later, about ex-lovers snowed in together overnight at a regional airport. (The film received an interim agreement from SAG-AFTRA allowing publicity during the strike.)

“It came to me during lockdown,” she says. “The essence of it is these two people who are stuck together. I just love that idea that we’re held in a space, even if it feels conflicted, maybe for reasons that heal them.”

Ryan, who stars alongside David Duchovny, calls the entire production “magical. It’s a little roller-coaster ride between these two people, and it asks the question in a way: Will they or won’t they end up together? These are people who broke one another’s hearts way back when. And I think what they gained is that they have gratitude for that.”

Does she now believe everything happens for a reason? Ryan’s thoughts turn to the late Nora Ephron, who wrote and directed many of her classic rom-coms. “In retrospect I feel it’s true, yeah,” she says. “The movies I did with Nora had an operative thing about kismet, like destiny and fate. And there’s something really comforting about that.”

[From People]

I wanted to snark on her statement that “It’s nice to think of [acting] as a job and not a lifestyle,” but honestly, I think that’s a healthy attitude to have about a lot of jobs. In America, our culture tends to tie so much worth and identity into what we do that we can sometimes forget who we are. We are a live-to-work country and, when having healthcare is tied to our employment, we are also a work-to-live society. I’m jealous that Meg was able to afford to take eight years off to be a mom and discover herself and hope that she recognizes how fortunate she is. I’m also always here for a good quote about destiny and fate, lol. (Shoutout to Kismet for having her name in Meg Ryan’s mouth!)

What Happens Later will be in theaters on November 3, and honestly, I’ll probably go see it. I like Ryan and Duchovny and while, yes, I know that most rom coms are problematic in that they play into dated sexist tropes, I’m still really looking forward to this one. I like that it centers around Boomer-aged actors and adjusts the romantic connection for their current age/place in life. We’re about to head into the Hallmark holiday movie season, which will be filled with mid-talented yet very hot young actors doing their meet cute thang, so gimme a Mulder/Sally rom com, baby.

Photos credit: affinitypicture/Backgrid, and People via Twitter

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32 Responses to “Meg Ryan explains why she ‘took a giant break’ for eight years from acting”

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  1. Inge says:

    because she ruined her face?

    • Kokiri says:

      I just cannot imagine living in a celeb spotlight, the pressure (sexist pressure) to always look young, beautiful, perfect.

      • Danbury says:

        Honestly it must be hell. While I envy the money and the access to fashion etc, I do not envy the scrutiny and the pressure

      • Christine says:

        I agree with you both, so much. I get to be a person who doesn’t wear make-up and generally has her hair in a ponytail, and cameras aren’t following me around. Fame is my idea of a post-apocalyptic hell.

    • Twin Falls says:

      The comments were scathing for a decade at least.

    • Meg says:

      But Inge is right. That’s EXACTLY why she disappeared. And everybody who was around at the time knew it. This is primo gaslighting to suggest otherwise.

    • Kitten says:

      Yep that’s what happened. It sucks and I feel bad for her but her face eclipsed her career which spells doom for any actress that’s trying to be taken seriously.

      • AlpineWitch says:

        She disappeared exactly for that reason and that trainwreck of relationship with Russell Crowe….

      • Jenn says:

        @AlpineWitch That’s right, the affair with Crowe (which didn’t harm his career at all). I remember she was so sick of rom-com typecasting and was desperate to change her image from “the girl next door.”

        None of it was fair to her, but I do remember the widespread, abject horror, lol.

    • Denguy says:

      I thought the same thing.

  2. Kokiri says:

    I’m developing a penchant for rom coms, it seems.
    I’ve been going back & watching so many I missed decades ago.
    I like Meg, find her acting to be natural & she’s funny.

    I don’t however, like David (Tia fan here) so I’ll be skipping this one.

    But I’ll watch When Harry met Sally again!

  3. Fuzzy Crocodile says:

    I really agree with her comment about it being a job and not a lifestyle. And man, I wish I could afford to take an extended break from mine.

    At my job, I work with someone that seems to wrap their identity up into their work. She works nights, weekends. Dude, it’s not that serious. The work will still be there tomorrow.

    I work to fund the rest of my life.

    • DaveW says:

      I’ve always been ok about my jobs but never had that all consuming passion and felt FOMO for all those people that do. In part, the salary what I’d probably choose to do for a career doesn’t line up with wanting to make enough to take a vacation, have a decent car, etc.

      Anyway, was talking with an older colleague a few years ago and he said he was glad he landed in a job that was ok most days, majority of his co-workers were nice people, made enough to support himself and family. It wasn’t his great passion or incredibly fulfilling, but that it was just fine and he was ok with that. I’ve adopted that and honestly, I’m much more content. Maybe it’s not the be all end all, but it’s ok most days.

      • Dee says:

        My job is fulfilling and my passion but I’m a slave to it. Good for you to have a work life balance!

    • lucy2 says:

      Same here. I really love my job, or most of it anyway, and it’s been a passion of mine since I was a kid. I’m incredibly lucky to have found what I wanted to do and get to do it. But it is not my whole life, and more and more I wish I had more flexibility in my hours, so I’d have more free time for other things, but I’m not there yet.

      Good for Meg for writing and directing. It’s great to see women take control of their careers that way.

      In addition to all the criticism of her plastic surgery, which I’m sure came from pressure to remain the cute youthful star she was known to be, she also got hit with a lot of bad press over the end of her marriage and the Russell Crowe thing – and given what we know about her ex-husband, maybe she shouldn’t have had to take ALL the blame. I don’t blame her for saying fuck it and going away for a while.

      • Ms single malt says:

        Her on and off again relationship with John Mellencamp sounded like a mess as well. Though I did love reading about how they decided to live without a personal assistant while together. They were clueless how to shop, pay for items at grocery store. Hello, bubble.

  4. Mireille says:

    “She stars in, directed and cowrote the new rom-com What Happens Later, about ex-lovers snowed in together overnight at a regional airport.”
    –Oh lord this sounds like Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and that other Before movie with Delpy and Hawke. Never been a fan of Ryan’s silly, romcom movies, including When Sally Met Harry, You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, etc. There was such a proliferation of white-bred rom coms in the 80s and 90s alongside an equal abundance of white-male mafia/gangster/action films. And while no one ever complained about too many films in those genres, people complain about “too many superhero films.” I’ve seen enough romcoms to know I’ll skip this one.

    • AnneL says:

      I didn’t love Sleepless in Seattle as much as some people did. It was cute and the concept was clever, but I just couldn’t root for the main couple because we didn’t get a chance to see their chemistry or connection! I actually preferred “You’ve Got Mail” despite Tom Hanks’ character being problematic. At least we got to see them interact a lot. Plus, her apartment was killer.

      But I agree that these movies were pretty bland and they all started to feel the same. I also wasn’t a big fan of “Four Weddings And A Funeral” or “Notting Hill.” I just didn’t care for the relationships.

  5. Justpassingby says:

    Meg looks really great here and in the trailer. It looks like her face has settled and she’s finally back to looking like Meg!

  6. SeemaLikely says:

    I’m not a romcom fan but I saw the trailer for this one and I’ll see it (or stream it). I’m all for movies starring in (and created by) older women.

  7. J says:

    I can’t wait! I adore her and LOVE the rom com genre. I’m sure her face was part of things but dont agree it was all of why she went away. Sounds like she went through some shit and needed to heal.

  8. Grant says:

    I don’t think her face looks that “crazy” anymore, but maybe I’m just inured to radical face-work at this point. That said, I always really enjoyed her as an actress and I love stories about leading ladies of a certain age getting work… Some of my favorite movies feature actors over 40 (Jackie Brown with Pam Grier, Something’s Gotta Give with Diane Keaton, etc.). I’d love to see Joan Allen make a comeback, either in a film or a really great prestige series on HBO.

  9. Campbell says:

    I’m one of those people that always liked and still like Meg Ryan. I remember the whole Russell Crowe era and I was disappointed because we all loved the idea of her and Dennis Quaid. But she later said it was never the marriage everyone thought it was and it seemed she was being blamed for bursting the myth. Her face changed and maybe she was chasing some ideal but I don’t like her any less for trying.

    I would totally watch her movies if it’s a good story and I hope she does more movies.

    • elle says:

      I remember how hot Dennis Quaid was in the movie set in N’awlins with Ellen Barkin. I’d still have a soft spot for him, but for the complete toad he’s revealed himself to be.

      I will always have a soft spot for Meg for When Harry Met Sally. Zero interest in Sleepless in Seattle or You’ve Got Mail.

      • Chrissy says:

        I think it was called ‘The Big Easy’ and yes, Dennis and Ellen were smokin’ hot in that film.

  10. olliesmom says:

    I wish that Meg and John Mellencamp were still a couple. I liked them together.

  11. BQM says:

    Mentioning Top Gun? What is this As the World Turns erasure? 😜 Betsy Andropolous 4ever! That general era of ATWT gave us Meg, Julianne Moore and Marisa Tomei. Good times!