Tom Hanks wasn’t in the mood for a rom-com when Nora Ephron called him out for “When Harry Met Sally.”
Hanks, who went on to collaborate with Ephron and Meg Ryan on beloved genre classics “You’ve Got Mail” and “Sleepless in Seattle,” apparently couldn’t relate to the idea that Harry (who was eventually played by Billy Crystal) was depressed after his divorce.
“People probably don’t know this, but Tom was offered it when ‘When Harry Met Sally’ and he turned it down because he was going through a divorce and was very happy not to be married,” Hanks’ current wife and fellow director Rita Wilson she said during an appearance on iHeartPodcast”Table for two with Bruce Bozzi.”
She continued, “And so she couldn’t understand that a person going through a divorce would have anything other than just say, ‘I’m so happy.’ But I loved that script.
Hanks had divorced his first wife Samantha Lewes in 1987. The couple had been married since 1978 when Hanks was 21 years old. Hanks and Wilson met on the set of ‘Volunteers’ and married in 1988. Lewes died of bone cancer in 2002.
Albert Brooks, Michael Keaton, Harrison Ford, Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss would also be approached for the part. Billy Crystal eventually landed the iconic role, even though director Rob Reiner worried that working with his close friend could “destroy” their personal relationship.
“It turned out to be so much better than anything I could imagine because not only was he amazing in the part, but he enhanced our friendship,” Reiner said. Variety in 2019 for the 30th anniversary of the film.
Ephron shared that he wrote the script with Reiner in mind as Harry as they were both going through their respective divorces at the time. Ephron separated from second husband Carl Bernstein in 1979 and Reiner separated from Penny Marshall in 1981.
Reiner pushed to change the ending of “When Harry Met Sally” after meeting his future wife Michele Singer during the making of the film. The last scene was originally going to be Harry (Crystal) and Sally (Ryan) walking away from each other forever.
“Because at the time, I couldn’t figure out how I was going to deal with anyone, so I had them walk in opposite directions in the end,” Reiner said The AV Club. “And then I met the woman who became my wife during the making of the film, and I changed the ending. I loved making the movie, I loved the experience.