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‘When Harry Met Sally’ Cast Facts: 10 Fascinating Pieces of Trivia About the Beloved Rom-Com

You won't believe which actress almost played Sally!

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The iconic scene in which Sally hilariously fakes an orgasm in a crowded restaurant is just one memorable part of the 1989 blockbuster When Harry Met Sally.

The rom-com, directed by Rob Reiner and written by Nora Ephron, stars Billy Crystal as Harry Burns and Meg Ryan as Sally Albright. It explores Harry and Sally’s evolving relationship over a decade, examining whether men and women can ever truly be “just friends.”

The film begins in 1977, with Harry and Sally sharing a car ride from Chicago to New York City after graduating college. During the trip, they clash on various topics, particularly Harry’s assertion that men and women can’t be friends because the sexual part always gets in the way.

MUST-READ: 12 Photos of Young Meg Ryan — See the ’90s Rom-Com Sweetheart in Her Early Days

Over the next decade, Harry and Sally bump into each other sporadically in New York. They each go through relationships and breakups and eventually develop a close friendship. As they help each other navigate their single lives, their bond deepens, leading to romantic tension and eventually, love.

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two people sitting at a dinner table
Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally (1989)moviestillsdb.com/Castle Rock Entertainment

The movie resonated with critics and movie-goers alike, grossing $92.8 million at the box office and earning an Academy Award nomination for its sharp and witty screenplay. 35 years after its premiere, the movie is still adored by fans of all ages, and it has influenced countless rom-coms in its wake.

Ryan was ultimately coined the rom-com queen, as she went on to star in other popular films in the genre, including Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and You’ve Got Mail (1998), both of which costarred Tom Hanks and were written and directed by Ephron.

It’s hard to believe the movie is 35, as it truly feels timeless. Here’s a look back at 10 fun facts about the cast of When Harry Met Sally. No matter how many times you’ve seen it, you still might find some of these facts surprising!

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1. People still think Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan are a couple 

man and woman laying together; when harry met sally cast facts
Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally (1989)moviestillsdb.com/Castle Rock Entertainment

Originally, Ephron planned to write an ending where Harry and Sally didn’t end up together as a couple, but she worried fans wouldn’t like such an unhappy ending. Instead, Ryan and Crystal improvised, and one of our favorite movie couples was born.

Crystal recently said that all these years later, people still can’t separate him and his costar. “Almost 35 years later, we’re still a couple to everybody,” he told People in 2023. “As you get further along and new generations see this movie and feel it and watch it over and over again on Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, whatever it is, people fall in love every day and out of love every day. This movie is an evergreen that way. It’s a beautiful thing.”

2. People wondered what happened to Meg Ryan: When Harry Met Sally cast facts

woman smiling
Meg Ryan in 2021Amy Sussman/Getty

After a series of personal issues in her marriage, tabloid rumors and a box office flop with the indie film Serious Moonlight in 2009, Ryan took a “giant break” from her acting career in 2015.

In 2023, she emerged with a new film she wrote, starred in, and produced called What Happens Later. Sadly, this rom-com was largely panned by critics and didn’t seem to resonate with fans either. 

3. Billy Crystal can take credit for the film’s most famous line

The fake orgasm scene at the classic New York restaurant Katz’s Deli is by far the most recognized moment from the film. In an interview, Crystal revealed that the line “I’ll have what she’s having,” was his brilliant idea. Another fun fact? The older woman who utters the legendary line is none other than Estelle Reiner, the director’s mom.

4. Meg Ryan’s kids are embarrassed by the famous scene: When Harry Met Sally cast facts

Meg Ryan with her son, Jack Quaid, in 2017
Meg Ryan with her son, Jack Quaid, in 2017James Devaney/Getty

Ryan has said that her now-grown kids have expressed “a unique kind of embarrassment” at their mom’s role in the famous orgasm scene, especially while visiting New York City and being near the restaurant where the scene took place. 

5. Tom Hanks turned down the role of Harry

man smiling; when harry met sally cast facts
Tom Hanks in 2017Christopher Polk/Getty

Moviegoers in the ’90s loved the pairing of Hanks and Ryan in romantic comedies, including Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, but many don’t know that Hanks actually turned down the role of Harry.

According to Hanks’ wife, actress Rita Wilson, the star turned down the part because “he was going through a divorce and he was very happy to be not married. And so he could not understand that a person going through a divorce would have anything other than just like, ‘I’m so happy.’”

MUST-READ: Tom Hanks Through the Years: 27 Rare Photos of the ‘Nicest Guy In Hollywood’

6. Molly Ringwald almost played Sally: When Harry Met Sally cast facts

Woman smiling leaning on table; when harry met sally cast facts
Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club (1985) moviestillsdb.com/UniversalPictures

’80s teen movie queen Molly Ringwald was reportedly Reiner’s original choice to play Sally. Reiner wasn’t sure Ryan was the right fit, as she’d never had a lead role, but luckily, the actress was able to convince the director she was the perfect choice, partly because she had this unmistakable chemistry with Crystal, and the rest is history. 

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7. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan are real-life BFFs

man and woman hugging
Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in 2019Gregg DeGuire/Getty

Many actors star in iconic movies together and then go their separate ways, but not Ryan and Crystal. The pair are reportedly still very good friends, with Ryan even gushing about her co-star at his recent Kennedy Center Honors.

8. Carrie Fisher was the most underrated player: When Harry Met Sally cast facts

woman in a wedding dress
Carrie Fisher in When Harry Met Sally (1989)moviestillsdb.com/Castle Rock Entertainment

Carrie Fisher costarred as Sally’s best friend, Marie, and was hilarious in her supporting role. Because she was best known for her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, some people overlooked her, but in the years since the movie was released, critics have praised her performance and even called the late actress the movie’s “real star.”

9. One of the movie’s costars was White House royalty

man smiling
Steven Ford in 1981Dianna Whitley/Getty

Steven Ford appears as Sally’s ex, who won’t marry her but then breaks up with her and marries someone else. Ford is the son of former president Gerald Ford and his wife, Betty. The now 68-year-old quit acting after 2007’s Transformers and now serves on the board of trustees for his father’s foundation. 

10. Harry Connick Jr. played an important part: When Harry Met Sally cast facts

young man; when harry met sally cast facts
Harry Connick Jr. in 1990David Redfern/Getty

Celebrated actor and singer Harry Connick Jr. got his big break in When Harry Met Sally, except his role wasn’t onscreen. Instead, he crooned most of the songs on the movie’s soundtrack.

In the ’80s, the New Orleans-born jazz musician was barely out of his teens but already making a name for himself. He caught the attention of Reiner, who tapped him to sing for the film.

Reiner was reportedly awestruck by the singer’s talent and felt his Sinatra-esque vibes closely fit the film’s New York City setting. The film catapulted Connick Jr. to star status, as the soundtrack album went Platinum two times over and won him a Grammy award for Best Jazz Male Vocal Performance.

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