Director Rob Reiner reveals that ‘When Harry Met Sally’ originally had a sad ending

I love when tidbits of trivia from When Harry Met Sally come out. Last year, Meg Ryan’s son Jack Quaid shared that he and his sister consider the deli fake orgasm scene to be “a unique embarrassment.” Now, we learn that the ending was almost very different and much sadder! Director Rob Reiner recently did an interview with Chris Wallace for Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace where he revealed that the original ending of the film almost had a “tearjerking ending.” In fact, Reiner only had a change of heart and turned it into a happy ending after he fell in love himself.

The ending of When Harry Met Sally was not how it was initially conceived, and director Rob Reiner is opening up about what changed his mind. In a new interview for Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace, Reiner revealed that the 1989 romantic comedy had a “tearjerking ending.”

“The original ending of the film that we had was that Harry and Sally didn’t get together,” Reiner said on the CNN show.

The film’s ending has Billy Crystal‘s Harry see Meg Ryan‘s Sally at a New Year’s Eve party, where he declares his love for her. After sharing a kiss, it’s revealed that they go on and get married three months later.

Reiner said he changed the ending after meeting his wife, Michele Singer, who he met during filming. The director that if it hadn’t been for him finding love in real life, Harry and Sally wouldn’t have ended up together.

“I’d been married for ten years,” Reiner said. “I’d been single for ten years, and I couldn’t figure out how I was ever going to be with anybody. That gave birth to When Harry Met Sally. I hadn’t met anybody, so it was going to be the two of them seeing each other after years, talking, and then walking away from each other.”

When Harry Met Sally was written by Nora Ephron and directed by Reiner, the film was released in 1989, the same year Reiner married his wife. Other actors in the movie include Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby, Steven Ford, Lisa Jane Persky, Michelle Nicastro, Kevin Rooney, Harley Kozak and Estelle Reiner.

[From Deadline]

Well, they do say to write what you know. I think Reiner has said before that the movie’s plot was inspired by his decade being single, but I had no idea that he almost made the ending to be such a downer, albeit true to his own life at the time. That would have definitely changed it from a rom com with an edge to just a relationship drama that would probably be nominated for Best Comedy for today’s Golden Globes. Not to be all that #TheUniverse person (okay fine, I’m willing to go there) but I’ll throw it out there that maybe Reiner met Singer while filming that particular movie because it was the exact right time in his life for all of those things to combine. Or, maybe it was all a coincidence and he just got lucky, lol. Either way, I love When Harry Met Sally as it is and am happy those two crazy kids ended up together.

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photos credit: Nicky Nelson/Faye’s Vision/Wenn/Avalon and screenshots from YouTube

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20 Responses to “Director Rob Reiner reveals that ‘When Harry Met Sally’ originally had a sad ending”

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  1. H says:

    When Harry Met Sally is still one of my all-time favorite movies and if Rob Reiner had ended it with them not being together, I probably would have walked out of the theater. Mad. 😆

    • Barbiem says:

      I still haven’t seen this movie. I have decided I am watching it this year!

    • Mika says:

      I’m calling bullshit on this whole story. He did not write this film – Nora Ephron did, and her pre-shooting script is available online with the original ending – WHICH IS THEM ENDING UP TOGETHER. She has talked and written at length about her inspirations being from her own life. This is anti-writer, probably sexist, and easily fact-checkable.

      • GamerGrrl says:

        Directors can and do change scripts all the time. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had written a new ending himself and then reverted it. There’s a reason writers in the industry want to direct their own material.

      • Mika says:

        I’m a writer-director and I’m aware.

        Nora Ephron’s original script is widely available, online and in books. There were changes made. This is not one of them.

      • Rosie says:

        I didn’t know the original script and changes made were widely available online, @Mika. Thank you so much for letting me know. I’ll use that as a tool if I ever come across a WHMS story in the future. Appreciate it!

      • BQM says:

        Nora and rob discussed it in an interview. You can see the video here. It was his idea but she says he changed it before he met Michelle.

  2. Soni says:

    One of the best movies ever! But I was soooo disappointed to learn that the couples portrayed in the movie were actors and not real life couples 🙁

  3. Brassy Rebel says:

    It’s possible for a great rom com to have a sad ending. But I don’t think it’s happened for seventy years. It took a great director, William Wyler, a great screenwriter who was black listed at the time, Dalton Trumbo, writing under another name, and two great stars, Audrey Hepburn ( who won an Oscar in her first major role) and Gregory Peck. If anyone can put together an incredible combination like this again, they can make a rom com with a sad ending. Btw, despite it’s age, Roman Holiday still holds up today. It’s timeless. Mostly filmed right on the streets of Rome, it’s in black and white because location shooting made color too expensive.

    • Snideysense says:

      It’s so funny, I was just thinking about Roman Holiday yesterday. What a great film. But also…70 YEARS? My God, how is that possible? My ability to calculate time stopped in 1999, nothing is ever more than 40 years old.

      • Brassy Rebel says:

        Peck and Wyler pranked Hepburn in the Mouth of Truth scene. Her reaction was 💯 genuine. The film was released in August of 1953 and is the best gateway imaginable to classic films. Both moving and funny.

      • BQM says:

        When I visited Rome with my hubby you can guess what I recreated. 😆 I wonder how many people have been inspired by the movie?

        And I adored her look when I was a teen. The skirt, flats, all of it.

        And the scene where they ask her her favorite part of her tour and she starts to give the neutral, diplomatic answer then stops and says “Rome. Most definitely and assuredly Rome”. Sigh. ❤️

        I guess the next closest movie where they don’t end up is La La Land?

      • Brassy Rebel says:

        I love that scene, and it’s also the one where she comes out and sees Joe and Irving, realizing that they are press. In close up, you can literally see every thought she has on her face. Yet, she hardly moves a muscle. Someone once said she could convey pages of dialogue with just her eyes. There will never be another.

        I haven’t seen La La Land. I didn’t realize it was a romantic comedy. In any case, any romantic comedy that rejects the “happily ever after” is taking a very big chance. It’s almost a rule of the genre. That’s why I think only a true classic with the best cast, director, and writer can pull it off.

  4. Jay says:

    Hmm – I actually think it might have been an interesting move to either not have them end up together or have them only realize too late that they should have gotten together.

    The first time I saw the movie I remember thinking that they might kill off Sally and then have Harry realize that he loved her all along! In my defense, I was raised by years of YA romances with tragic heroines whose sole purpose in the plot was to teach the men that loved them an appreciation for life.

  5. Normades says:

    Princess Bride, Stand by me, Spinal Tap, Misery..,Reiner has directed so many iconic films! And before Singer he was married to Penny “Laverne” Marshal who also went on to be an epic director.

  6. Boxy Lady says:

    That’s pretty interesting considering his daughter from his 1st marriage is in the movie too. His first wife was Penny Marshall and he adopted her daughter Tracy. She’s in a lot of Penny’s and Rob’s stuff. In When Harry Met Sally, Tracy played Harry’s young girlfriend who owns the dessert company. Harry could have ended up with her but Tracy’s real-life dad found love on set! 😂 It’s weird how things can come so full circle sometimes!

  7. Monc says:

    I will always stop what I’m doing to watch this movie..