Tom Hanks Turned Down ‘When Harry Met Sally’ Because He Was Too Happy About Being Divorced

He’ll have what single people are having
Tom Hanks Turned Down ‘When Harry Met Sally’ Because He Was Too Happy About Being Divorced

Sleepless in Seattle. Joe vs. the Volcano. You’ve Got Mail. When Harry Met Sally? Yep, there was almost a fourth Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan rom-com back in the day. In fact, Hanks’ wife Rita Wilson says Hanks was actually offered the Billy Crystal role and turned it down — mainly because he was so jazzed about ditching his own failed marriage

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“People probably don’t know this, but Tom was offered When Harry Met Sally, and he turned it down because he was going through a divorce and he was very happy to not be married,” Wilson explained on the Table for Two with Bruce Bozzi podcast this week. 

At different points in the When Harry Met Sally script, both Harry and Sally go through broken marriages and failed relationships, leaving each of them miserable. Hanks just couldn’t relate. “He could not understand that a person going through a divorce would have anything other than just like, ‘I’m so happy,’” Wilson said.

It’s unclear if Hanks was indeed offered the role, or simply under consideration. IndieWire reports that several actors were discussed for Harry, including Hanks, Crystal, Albert Brooks, Bill Murray, Harrison Ford, Michael Keaton and Richard Dreyfuss. Those are a lot of comedy sliding doors to ponder — Murray would have definitely brought a more cynical, boozy vibe, while Brooks would have doubled down on the neuroses that Crystal eventually provided.

Crystal got the part, of course, though director Rob Reiner was nervous it would screw up their friendship. Who needs another failed relationship? “It turned out way better than anything I could have imagined because not only was he great in the part, it made our friendship better,” Reiner told Variety

Screenwriter Nora Ephron, who went through her own divorce while writing the script, had Reiner himself in mind for the lead. Ironically — or maybe it was just “because Hollywood” — Reiner was also splitting up his marriage to Penny Marshall, so he’d at least have the background for the job. 

The movie’s original ending had Harry and Sally going their own ways for good, but Reiner fell in love — again — during the movie’s filming. Once again a swooning sap, Reiner convinced Ephron to concoct an ending where the two failed romantics finally hook up for good. It’s too bad; it sounds like newly single Hanks would have preferred the version where Harry gets to play the field forever. 

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