MOTW: Meg Ryan – Queen of Romantic-Comedy Films and America's Sweetheart

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures
January 2nd, 2014

MOTW: Meg Ryan – Queen of Romantic-Comedy Films and America's Sweetheart

Born Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra in 1961 in Connecticut, blue-eyed, blond-haired Meg Ryan is known as America's sweetheart. Ryan started her acting career on television, and she rose to prominence during the '80s and '90s playing memorable roles in romantic-comedy films.

Raised in New York, Ryan graduated from Bethel High School in 1979 and went on to study journalism at New York University. To pay for her studies, the aspiring actress earned extra money by acting in TV commercials using her new screen name: Meg Ryan. She decided to drop out of college a semester before graduating because of her success in the acting industry.

Meg Ryan's first substantial role was on the soap opera "As the World Turns." She played the character Betsy Stewart Montgomery Andropoulos from 1982 to 1984. After appearing in the 1983 horror flick "Amityville 3-D," she got her first huge film break when she scored a role in the 1986 hit ''Top Gun,'' starring Tom Cruise. This led to a major role in Steven Spielberg's sci-fi movie "Innerspace," where she co-starred with future husband Dennis Quad. Their onscreen love story soon turned into a real-life relationship, and in 1991, the two married on Valentine's Day. Ryan conceived their first son Jack the following year.

A string of high-profile roles in "DOA" and "Promised Land" followed. Ryan eventually landed the leading role of Sally Albright in the 1989 romantic comedy "When Harry Met Sally," which was a huge hit. Her titular role earned her perpetual fame and notoriety, particularly because of the unforgettable scene with Ryan and Billy Crystal in a New York restaurant. She received BAFTA and Golden Globe award nominations for her natural comedic performance. Ryan then starred with Tom Hanks in 1990 film "Joe Versus the Volcano," starting a lasting onscreen collaboration between them for several movies to come.

Her next movie was an uncharacteristic deviance from her typical roles. She played a purely dramatic character as Jim Morrison's wife in "Oliver Stone's The Doors." Her fantastic portrayal of a drug-addicted wife earned her critical acclaim and proved that she's more than a romance and comedy actress. She further manifested her acting prowess by playing the role of a hitchhiker in the 1993 dark movie "Flesh and Bone." Ryan and Hanks collaborated once again and starred in the popular hit "Sleepless in Seattle." She became widely known for her leading roles in much-loved romantic comedies during the 90s, including "You've Got Mail," "Sleepless in Seattle," "French Kiss," and "Addicted to Love."

Ryan started getting more opportunities to play dramatic roles. She starred in "Restoration" alongside Robert Downey Jr in "When a Man Loves a Woman" as an alcoholic, "Courage Under Fire" as a Gulf War soldier, and "Addicted to Love" as a vengeful ex-girlfriend. The actress also co-starred with Nicolas Cage in the romantic drama "City of Angels."

In 2000, Ryan returned to comedy acting and starred in "Hanging Up." She also forayed into film production by producing the supernatural thriller "Lost Souls." Many were astounded by the controversies that followed with Ryan's personal affairs. Ryan had and effervescent, girl-next-door persona in her romantic-comedy movies, but in real life, she was having an affair with "Proof of Life" co-star Russell Crowe, which prompted her husband to file for divorce.

She took a break in 2001 to focus on the documentary "In the Wild: The White Elephants of Thailand." She soon returned to the spotlight as the star of ''Kate and Leopold." In 2006, Ryan announced that she adopted a Chinese girl named Charlotte, who she later renamed Daisy.

In 2007, Ryan landed a role in the dramatic comedy "In the Land of Women." In 2008, she starred in "The Deal." In 2009, she played a high-powered attorney in "Serious Moonlight." In 2012, Ryan was featured in the documentary "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide." The documentary introduced a group of women who have overcome multiple challenging circumstances and hurdled many tough obstacles. In October 2013, Ryan announced she would return to TV to produce and star in a comedy series that involves a former hotshot New York editor. In her spare time, she works with CARE, which is a charitable organization that aims to end poverty and help women work together.