After graduating from Bethel High School, Meg Ryan studied
journalism at New York University. Meg went into acting to earn
extra money while in school. After her first role in a feature
film, Ryan (now using her screen name) played Betsy on the
daytime drama As the World Turns from 1982 to 1984. Directors
for this show especially liked working with her because she
could cry on cue.
After several TV film and smaller movie roles, Meg Ryan's first full blown hit in a leading role was the romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally.... It was favorably received and typecast Ryan as a bubbly, charming, feisty, but incurable romantic. Meg Ryan made several attempts to break away from this stereotype, and garnered some critical acclaim for her work in When a Man Loves a Woman (where she played an alcoholic) and Courage Under Fire (where she played a military officer killed in combat). Many of her films of the 1990s were hits not only in North America, but also abroad. She had a very popular on-screen pairing with Tom Hanks: some compared their chemistry to Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. They starred in three films together, and their last, (1998's You've Got Mail), was Meg's last major box office success for some years to come.
Meg married actor Dennis Quaid on Valentine's Day in 1991 after co-starring in two films with him. Quaid and Ryan had one child together, Jack Henry, born April 24, 1992. The couple divorced on July 16, 2001. Although Ryan had an affair with actor Russell Crowe, with whom she was working on a movie, both she and Quaid deny it was a factor in their divorce. When the film (Proof of Life) failed, director Taylor Hackford blamed Crowe and Ryan's affair and the ensuing negative publicity it garnered. Some believed this liaison, along with Meg ageing beyond the "cute" persona of her screen characters, hurt her popularity with the American public, while possibly working in favor of her ex-husband. She has not had a major box office success since knowledge of the relationship became public.
In 2003, Meg Ryan broke away from her usual roles and starred in In the Cut, an erotic crime/thriller/mystery which was popular with neither critics nor the public. While promoting this film in the UK, Ryan drew the ire of the British press and public when she appeared on Parkinson, the popular long-running talk show hosted by veteran presenter Michael Parkinson. The actress's conduct was widely considered appalling, turning her back on fellow guests, Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine, and suggesting that Parkinson call time on the interview. In a 2006 survey of British TV viewers, her behavior on the show was considered the third "most shocking" TV chat show moment ever. Parkinson, who has interviewed over 1,000 of the world's most famous people, confessed that Meg Ryan's interview was his "most difficult TV moment", adding, "I should have closed it. But listen, it happens. She was an unhappy woman. I felt sorry for her. What I couldn't forgive her for was that she was rude to the other guests."
In response, via an interview with Marie Claire magazine in 2006, Meg blamed Parkinson's perceived paternal manner, saying:
"I don't even know the man. That guy was like some disapproving father! It's crazy. I don't know what he is to you guys, but he's a nut. I felt like he was berating me for being naked in the movie. He said something like: 'You should go back to doing what you were doing'. And I thought, are you like a disapproving dad right now? I'm not even related to you. Back off, buddy. I was so offended by him."
The episode also brought into sharp focus the difference between the UK's publicly funded BBC, which has no advertisements, and US commercial networks:
"I realized it's not like an American talk show where it's seven minutes and then there's a commercial break. I had to do 20 minutes straight with this guy, and I could either walk off — which wouldn't be good — or try to disagree with him very respectfully."
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