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No one could portrait irony, kindness, wit and fragility like Meg Ryan did. Since we first saw her lovely smile in When Harry Met Sally..., this unique actress found a special place in our heart. Through other unforgettable movies like Sleepless in Seattle or You’ve Got Mail she became an icon of this genre, showing us the grace and complexity of being a woman in a world in which human relationships were challenging at times. Meg Ryan is in Locarno to receive the Leopard Club Award 2018 and shared with LocarnoDaily her memories about being one of the most beloved sweethearts of America:
For many years you were an icon of romantic comedy. What are the pros and cons of becoming such a defining figure for the public in such a beloved genre?
It is a very nice thing, that even now people are really still attached to my movies. It is flattering to be recognized by fans on the street, people who are truly kind to me. About one month ago I was trying to get a cab and a man gently gave me his, and then the driver called his family yelling he just had Meg Ryan in his taxi. I had a very nice time…
This year’s Locarno retrospective is dedicated to Leo McCarey, which inevitably brings to mind his masterpieces Love Affair, An Affair to Remember and the ways they were later reprised in a number of films, including the remake tribute to the original story which you starred in, Sleepless in Seattle. What was it like to be involved with a movie that owed so much to the golden age of Hollywood?
I am truly happy to be part of such a great tradition of romantic comedies. Truth be told, they are difficult movies to make; you have to reach out to the audience’s heart. But if great directors are directing you, you’re able add a social comment, functioning like a mirror that reflects the changing of society. I am thinking about directors like Leo McCarey or George Cukor, the latter who directed me in my very first movie, Rich and Famous.
Your filmography took a decisive turn when you teamed up with Nora Ephron, the screenwriter and director who made three milestone pictures with you: When Harry Met Sally..., Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail. How did you meet and what kind of relationship have you developed with her over the years?
The first time I met Nora was during the When Harry Met Sally... audition. She became a fundamental figure in my career and in my life. Nora was a woman capable of bringing you to special places. She used to organize amazing dinner parties or great weekends at her cottage upstate. Those were incredible times. On set it was the same, Nora could create a friendly atmosphere with everyone she was working with. We’ve been great friends, I have only lovely recalls of her.
You’ve worked with several female directors: not only Nora Ephron but also Diane Keaton and Jane Campion. Did you experience a different kind of sensibility when you were directed by another woman?
In most cases male directors want to tell the main character’s story, they connect with those characters. When I worked with Jane the story and atmosphere were the most important thing, and the film’s tone becomes the real subject. When you work with a filmmaker like Jane the camera is used to show your inner life, whereas with a director the whole process is much more objective. It is just a different approach, that’s it.