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The Schmooze

‘When Harry Met Sally’ Is Turning 30 — 16 Facts About The Making Of The Movie

This July, the world’s favorite romantic comedy will turn 30.

“When Harry Met Sally” director Rob Reiner and stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan gathered this weekend to reminisce about the orgasmically-enjoyable NYC-set love story, as old friends.

Tragically Nora Ephron, the legendary Jewish screenwriter, essayist, and journalist behind the film died in 2012 at the age of 71, while suffering from acute myeloid leukemia. But the unapologetic Upper West Sider’s romantic films — and the stories behind them — live on.


Here are just a few things you may not know about the process behind the mega-endearing 30-year-old movie:

1.Harry and Sally both graduate from the University of Chicago in 1977. They should be peers, but in fact Billy Crystal is 14 years older than Ryan — by the time “When Harry Met Sally” came out, he had already convincingly played the elderly Miracle Max in “The Princess Bride,” which was also directed by Rob Reiner.

2.Albert Brooks and Molly Ringwald were the original choices for the roles of Harry and Sally. Crystal wasn’t yet a star, and Ryan was virtually unknown.

3.Joe, Sally’s boyfriend in the early part of the movie, is played by Steven Ford, son of President Gerald Ford.

4.The team behind the film wanted Ryan to wear glasses, hoping that making her “less beautiful,” would convince audiences she was a more realistic match for Crystal. Cheryl Shuman provided dozens of glasses options through her business “Starry Eyes Optical Services,” but Ryan ended up wearing Shuman’s personal pair, and Shuman says she was besieged with thousands of requests for the glasses after the movie was released. Shuman has since left the prop-glasses business, and now runs a luxury medical marijuana dispensary.

5.Nora Ephron almost didn’t finish the script for the movie. The story is so good, you should read it in her own words.

6.Ephron based the two main characters on herself and Reiner, though their relationship was only ever platonic. Her original script ended with Harry and Sally’s relationship not working out. But when long-divorced Reiner fell in love while filming the movie, he convinced his best friend to adjust the script. “I met the woman who became my wife during the making of the movie,” he said, so Ephron’s script had to change.


7.It was Meg Ryan’s idea to actually act out the orgasm in the Katz’s Deli scene.

8.The woman who says “I’ll have what she’s having” is director Rob Reiner’s mother, Estelle. Billy Crystal suggested the line. Reiner had originally told his mother that while he’d love her to take the role, it was possible that her line would be cut. “Oh, it’s OK!” she responded. “I just like spending the day with you.”

9.To show Ryan what he wanted for the scene, Reiner acted it out in front of the cast, and then said, embarrassed, “I just had an orgasm in front of my mom.”

10.Crystal claims he ate 27 pastrami sandwiches during the shooting in Katz’s Deli. “For any Jew, that’s a lot,” he said.

11.The four-way-phone-call scene, where Harry and Sally each call their best friends at the same time, took 61 takes

12.Ryan and Carrie Fisher improvised lines in many of their scenes. Crystal improvised the line, “But, I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie.”

13.There was an ill-received stage version of the movie, starring Alyson Hannigan and Luke Perry.

14.The voice in the final scene that shouts, “Hey everybody, 10 seconds ‘til New Years” is Reiner’s.

15.Princess Diana attended the London premiere of the movie, then hosted a private screening of the movie at “Buckingham Palace”.

16.Billy Crystal said he was nervous that the Princess would walk out of the deli orgasm scene. Luckily, she laughed.


Jenny Singer is the deputy life/features editor for the Forward. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny


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