Although not a classic star per se, Meg Ryan was at one time this generation’s Jean Arthur. For a while, Ryan was the highest paid actress in Hollywood. It was about 10 years ago that Meg was commanding about $15 million per picture. Then she kind of disappeared. In more recent years she attempted to make a comeback and took a few bit parts in low budget failures like the 2007 movie Land of Women, or 2008’s straight-to-video My Mom’s New Boyfriend.
So, what happened? How does one of the biggest box-office stars of the ’90s drop off the radar like this? Was it age discrimination? Was it a poor choice of roles? Was it the death of the kind of huge romantic comedies she starred in? Meg Ryan movies grossed over $1 billion from 1993 to 1998.
Ryan did take a three-year hiatus after the big-time bomb of 2004′ s Against the Ropes, but she came back in some bigger failures, like being a part of an ensemble cast for the 2008 comedy The Women, where she joined Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Jada Pinkett Smith, Debra Messing, Bette Midler, and Candice Bergen in a remake of the 1939 classic.
In 2009, Ryan starred alongside Kristen Bell and Justin Long in the independent comedy Serious Moonlight. In this film, directed by actress Cheryl Hines and based on a screenplay by late writer Adrienne Shelly (who was murdered a year prior to filming), Ryan portrayed a high-powered female attorney who learns that her husband, played by Timothy Hutton, is about to leave their troubled marriage, and decides to hold him captive by duct-taping him to a toilet. Picked up by Magnolia Pictures, the production received a limited release throughout North America only, and grossed less than $150,000 worldwide. In October of 2010, she was cast in the ensemble drama Lives of The Saints alongside Kat Dennings, Kevin Zegers and John Lithgow. The still-in-production drama, similar in style to Crash, would interweave the lives of a group of Los Angeles residents who are all struggling with past mistakes. In April, 2011, it was announced that Meg Ryan would make her feature film directing debut with a film titled Into the Beautiful. And the following month she was cast in Long Time Gone, a film adaptation of the April Stevens novel Angel Angel. However, she dropped out of the cast before filming started and was eventually replaced by Virginia Madsen.
What caused this disappearance of Meg Ryan from the movies? Well it could be many things. She had an affair with Russell Crowe while still married to Dennis Quaid–but audiences usually have short term memories for those types of indiscretions. She has made a poor choice of movie roles, even appearing naked in the R-rated bomb In the Cut in 2003. Also, Hollywood is notorious for being unkind to aging actresses. Meg Ryan is now 52, and–unless you are Meryl Streep–I think good roles for older women are hard to come by.
Nevertheless, Ryan has not had a hit movie since 1998’s You’ve Got Mail, and I think she would be wise to try to return to her roots in romantic comedies. At this time no new Meg Ryan movies are in production, but for many film lovers, she was America’s sweetheart in countless movies of the 1990s. Where has the time gone…
David Lobosco is a 37-year-old fan of the golden years of Hollywood. He was close to his grandfather, who instilled in him a love of great entertainment, and currently writes a blog called The Great Entertainment Media Archive.