From the moment it was released in 1989, there was something special about the romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally. It was that specialness that reunited stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, along with director Rob Reiner, for a 30th Anniversary event celebrating the film on Thursday, April 11. Presented as part of the 10th annual Turner Classic Movies Festival, it was a great opportunity for the trio to reflect on the film in front of the gathered audience.
When Harry Met Sally begins in 1977 and focuses on college graduates Harry Burns (Billy) and Sally Albright (Meg), who share a contentious car ride from Chicago to New York, during which they argue about whether men and women can ever truly be strictly platonic friends (she says yes, he says no). A decade later, Harry and Sally meet again at a bookstore and in the company of their respective best friends, Jess (the late Bruno Kirby) and Marie (the late Carrie Fisher), and attempt to stay friends without sex becoming an issue between them. It does and despite what seems insurmountable odds (and, yes, we’re spoiling things, so if you haven’t seen the film in the past 30 years … well, sorry about that) they do come together, with Harry delivering one of the greatest rom-com speeches ever.
“I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out,” he tells Sally on New Year’s Eve. “I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich, I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts, I love that after I spend a day with you I can still smell your perfume on my clothes and I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of the life to start as soon as possible.” Tissues. Now!
The image below is an amazing moment in the film, where Sally refutes Harry’s claim that men can always tell if a woman achieves orgasm by pretending to have one right there in the middle of the deli they’re eating at. An older customer, seeing this, tells the waiter, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
Says Rob, “Billy added the biggest laugh in the movie, which is the biggest laugh in any movie I’ve ever been involved with: ‘I’ll have what she’s having.’ My mother says that line [in the film]. We came up with this idea and then Meg was the one who said, ‘Yeah, but I’ll do it!’ Because with the idea we got to tell something that women know, but men don’t know about that. Because we had a scene earlier, where they’re on the plane together and Billy talks about how men feel after sex and all that. We were saying something that maybe men understood, but women didn’t, and then we had that counterpoint. And then Meg said, ‘Well, I’ll do it! I’ll just actually act it out, we don’t have to talk about it, I’ll just do it.'”
“And in a restaurant,” Billy remembers. “Something big! And then you’ll cut to a woman who will say, ‘I’ll have what she’s having!’ We all laughed.”
Recalls Rob, “Meg says she’ll do it, but what she doesn’t realize is she has to do it in front of all these strangers; all these people and the extras and everything. And so the first couple of times it looked like it needed more. So I said, ‘Meg, let me show you!’ I sat down opposite Billy…”
“And then he proceeds to have an orgasm that Mighty Joe Young would be proud of,” says Billy.
“I just had an orgasm in front of my mother,” Rob reflects. “And then Meg does this little thing at the end, which I didn’t tell her to do, where she does a full-on orgasm, it’s over and then she goes right back and takes a little thing of coleslaw.”
Says Rob of When Harry Met Sally‘s enduring popularity, “You never know. You make a movie and hopefully you like it, and hopefully other people do, too. You have no idea if it will stand the test of time, and it’s kind of cool that it did. I think that there are some basic truths about men and women that people connect with, and those kind of things, that dance; that weird dance that men and women do with one another kind of is basic and kind of there all of the time.”
Notes Meg of the experience, “It’s the kind of music Billy and I knew how to play together.”
Over the years, fans have wondered if there would ever be a sequel; if Harry and Sally had remained together for all this time. “Yes,” Rob told Variety, “they are still together. That doesn’t mean they haven’t had tremendous ups and downs or been on the verge of divorce and got back together, just like any relationship. But I do think they’re still together.”
Adds Billy on the idea of a sequel, “As we got older, what would the movie be about? ‘When Harry Left Sally’? ‘When Sally Got Sick’? Just let them be happy and where everybody wants them to be. For all of us who believe in happily ever after, that’s where they live.”
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