Wearing a long black coat, running shoes and dark sunglasses, Meg Ryan looked like any other New Yorker as she strolled the city streets recently. She headed uptown, unnoticed by the pedestrians she passed. After decades as “America’s Sweetheart,” Meg doesn’t mind this anonymity one bit.
With starring roles in hits like When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail, Meg, 57, spent her 20s and 30s breathing the rarified air of Hollywood superstardom. But the bubble that surrounded her began to feel like a cage; she worried that she wasn’t really living. “I felt like I was behind a window looking at my life,” Meg, who moved east more than a decade ago to start over, admits to The New York Times.
Today, she’s engaged to rocker John Mellencamp, 67, and pours much of her energy into being a good parent to her children, Jack, 26, and Daisy, 14. The decision to leave Hollywood came easily to Meg, who felt stymied by her sweet image. “My son, Jack, graduated from high school on a Friday or Saturday. I moved back to New York on the following Monday,” she recalls. “I was burned out. I didn’t feel like I knew enough anymore about myself or the world to reflect it as an actor. I felt isolated.”
Box-office success had become a double-edged sword. “I’m not complaining — there are so many advantages to being famous — but there are fundamental disadvantages for a part of your brain, your self, your soul. My experiences were too limited,” explains Meg. “The only people you meet are on the set, and you’re memorizing lines —I remember thinking, I want to have my own thoughts.” It didn’t help that Meg’s 2001 divorce from Dennis Quaid drew unwelcome attention. “I felt the effect, like I was the bad guy,” she says. “But I remember letting go of needing to correct anybody. Divorce is hard. Love is hard.”
With her sweetheart image tarnished, Meg took the lead in the 2003 thriller In the Cut, but it flopped at the box office and became a magnet for hostile reviews. “I was surprised by the negative reaction,” she admits. Meg adopted Daisy as a single mother in 2006 and put her efforts into creating a life for them in New York, where Jack, her son from her marriage to Dennis, was attending college. “Raising a kid takes a lot of time,” says Meg to the outlet, who also began to travel and pursue other interests out of the spotlight. “I have a passion for design. I take pictures.”.
As she approaches her 60s, Meg has finally achieved the satisfying, full life she desired. In addition to her strong bond with her kids, her relationship with John is a source of happiness. “What’s great about now is that John and I are so free to have fun,” she gushes. She’s recently started thinking about Hollywood again — but on her own terms. Meg is currently writing scripts for a comedy mystery TV series and a romantic comedy feature film. She’s inspired by her early career and her friendship with the late writer-director Nora Ephron, who charmed audiences with films like Sleepless in Seattle. “[Nora’s] observation about romantic comedies is that they were commenting on their time in an intelligent way, but with the intention to delight,” says Meg.
If her script goes into production, she’d like to direct but not star in it. “I like the famous I am now,” Meg says. “I walk into other people’s paparazzi photos, but I can also get a restaurant reservation.”
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