Once upon a time, Meg Ryan was the queen of rom-coms. Back in the ’80s and early ‘90s, she starred in a string of massively successful movies, a couple of which have become beloved classics. But where is Meg Ryan now? She kept herself mostly outside of the spotlight for years. Here’s a look at Meg Ryan’s life and career today.
Meg Ryan Starred In ‘When Harry Met Sally’ and ‘Sleepless In Seattle’
Meg Ryan appeared in several movies in the early and mid-’80s, including Top Gun, D.O.A., Innerspace, and The Presidio. But her first lead role—and breakout part—was as Sally Albright in the 1989 hit When Harry Met Sally. Written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner, the film told the love story of two New Yorkers over a number of years. Also starring Billy Crystal, the movie was both a box office smash and a critical success, catapulting Ryan into superstardom.
In 1993, she starred opposite Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle, another critically acclaimed rom-com blockbuster. The film was nominated for three Golden Globe Awards, including one for Ryan as Best Actress—Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. Five years later, she teamed up with Hanks once again for You’ve Got Mail.
In addition to these romantic comedies, Ryan also starred a number of ’90s hits like The Doors, When a Man Loves a Woman, Courage Under Fire, City of Angels, and Hurlyburly. But by the mid-2000s, Ryan slowed her roll significantly and started stepping away from the Hollywood spotlight. So what happened to Meg Ryan?
Why Did Meg Ryan Quit Acting?
Ryan kicked off the new century by starring in two modestly successful movies in 2000: Hanging Up and Proof of Life. The following year, she tried to make rom-com magic once again opposite Hugh Jackman in Kate & Leopold. Unfortunately, that film was not a box office success and received lukewarm reviews from critics.
But it was her next movie, 2003’s In The Cut, that really led Ryan to reassess her role as a Hollywood actress. Also starring Mark Ruffalo, the film was an erotic thriller that featured Ryan in a number of edgy nude scenes. Used to seeing the Sleepless in Seattle star as the sweet, girl-next-door type, audiences and critics didn’t like this racy new side of Ryan. In addition to panning the film, the press was highly critical of her decision to act in a movie that was so off type. According to the New Zealand Herald, one interviewer even suggested she should have prepared her audiences for the fact that she was taking such a departure from her usual romantic roles.
“I know that when I did In the Cut, the reaction was vicious,” Ryan said in a 2008 interview.
Her Divorce From Dennis Quaid Harmed Her Career
In addition to the strongly disliked film, the perception of the rom-com actress had shifted since her days in the ‘80s and ‘90s as America’s sweetheart. After her divorce from actor Dennis Quaid in 2001, rumors swirled that the couple split because of Ryan’s affair with her Proof of Life co-star Russell Crowe. Fans were not happy with that narrative, which Ryan says was very unfairly off-base.
“That story never got told right,” she said of her divorce in a 2019 interview with Today. “It’s a real gift when you know you can’t ever really manage an image or a story and you stop caring. I felt the effect like I was the bad guy or whatever the story was.”
Though it took her some time, Ryan said she was eventually able to move past the unfairness of the press’s unsolicited opinions. “I remember letting go of needing to correct anybody,” she explained. “Divorce is hard. Love is hard. All those things were so personal. They weren’t for mass consumption. The complexity of a life or a marriage is never going to exist in a headline or a tabloid. That was a freeing thing to know! Though fame has become so democratized now.”
She Also Chose To Step Back From Acting To Recover From Burnout
Ryan also maintained that by the time she finished In the Cut, she had truly tired of her high-profile career. The constant criticism and tabloid scrutiny that came with being a Hollywood actress had become too much for her. “I felt in a crazy way that, as an actor, I was burning through life experiences,” Ryan said to the New York Times. “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.”
The one thing Ryan didn’t regret from her earlier acting days was the son she had with Quaid in 1992, Jack. He’s an actor in his own right and has appeared in several films, including The Hunger Games, Just Before I Go, Logan Lucky, and Rampage.
Meg Ryan Made Her Directorial Debut In 2015
After appearing in only a small handful of films since In the Cut, Ryan decided to try her hand at directing in 2015. She directed and produced the movie Ithaca, which was a period piece set during World War II. She also acted in it alongside Sam Shepard, Alex Neustaedter, Tom Hanks, and her son, Jack.
Ryan said she loved the new challenge of directing and even got some excellent advice from Jane Campion, director of the ill-fated In the Cut. “The way she ran a set was so wonderful,” Ryan told the Hollywood Reporter in 2016. “She told me before we started shooting, ‘No matter what, you’ll be very tempted to involve yourself with technicalities about light and focus and how fast the camera’s gonna move, but make sure that when you’re sitting there and watching the actors, that that’s when you’re the artist too and you really allow yourself to feel your way through every single take.’ That was really good advice—to have that kind of freedom right then, to have the freedom to feel what the actors were doing. I love that.”
What Is Meg Ryan Doing Now?
Today, the 60-year-old actor is dipping a toe back into the spotlight, though she avoided it for quite a while following her meteoric rise to stardom. In 2010, she found herself in the tabloids when she started dating ‘80s rocker John Mellencamp. The pair split in 2014 but reunited a few years later and announced their engagement in 2018.
The following year, reports surfaced that the two had called it quits once again, but there continues to be speculation that the on-again, off-again couple is not completely finished with each other. In 2021, Ryan was spotted wearing what looked like an engagement ring while out and about in Santa Monica, fueling rumors that the couple was back together.
As far as her acting career goes, there were rumblings in 2021 that the French Kiss star was getting ready to make a comeback, but nothing seemed to materialize—until May of 2022, when it was announced that Ryan would be directing and acting in a new romantic comedy called What Happens Later. The film is slated to release sometime in 2023.
It is also noteworthy that Ryan did not appear in the 2022 film Top Gun: Maverick, the long-awaited sequel to Top Gun, another movie she’s famous for. Many fans of the franchise resorted to speculation, but director Joseph Kosinski told Insider that her character had never been discussed to return. “I didn’t want every storyline to be looking backwards. It was important to introduce some new characters.”