Words by Naomi Jeffreys
Following Nora Ephron’s passing, fans across the globe have been mourning the loss of such a talent. She started and formed many an actor’s career, specifically that of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (pictured above). But what makes these two actors so well matched on screen? Meg Ryan has almost become the face of the ‘American sweetheart’ and has forged and formed her career within the Romantic Comedy genre. Whilst Tom Hanks formed the ‘everyday man’ from which women could swoon and men could admire.
The stars first film was not directed by Nora Ephron, but was directed by Patrick Shanley. Joe Versus the Volcano (1989). The film followed Joe Banks (Hanks) who is stuck in a dead end job, who finds out he has a terminal illness and he goes on an adventure to the mystical island of Waponi Woo.
The two stars show remarkable ease in their given roles, with Ryan showing particular range playing no less than three parts. The film has a line of particular importance in these two actors embarking on what would be a long and fruitful career: “Nobody knows anything, Joe. We’ll take this leap, and we’ll see. We’ll jump, and we’ll see. That’s life, right?” And boy did they jump, despite Joe Versus the Volcano being commercially disspointing, the film has gone on to be a cult hit.
The next film which proved to be commercially more successful, Sleepless in Seattle (1993). A recently-widowed man’s son calls a radio talk show in an attempt to find his father a partner. This was Nora Ephron’s first commercial success grossed $227,900,000 worldwide. And was to be the first film with the trio. Unusually for a Romantic Comedy, the two actors are apart for about ninety percent of the film, yet, the audience still longs for them to be together.
Whether it is because Meg Ryan listens to Sam (Hanks) on the radio show, and is shown to be reacting and often talking in sync with him, or, maybe it is because the two are just perfect onscreen together, in any shape or form. Sleepless in Seattle cemented in Hollywood’s mind that these two actors were the face of Romantic Comedy.
Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s final furor onscreen was to be You’ve Got Mail (1998) was to be the final pairing with Nora Ephron, and, sadly proved to be their final film together. The film, which was based on The Shop Around the Corner (1940), show two business rivals who hate each other at the office but fall in love over the internet. Ephron’s script is smart, witty, and wonderfully light hearted.
The love-hate relationship was refreshing compared to the almost head over heels love in Sleepless. And, again, Hanks and Ryan proved the right faces for American Romantic Comedy, their onscreen chemistry and ultimately their long lasting friendship off screen ultimately can prove that, at least in the ’90s, these two actors rivalled any other chemistry onscreen and ultimately, forged their careers.
Tom Hanks has commented on his relationship with Meg Ryan; “ I always feel as if I have to be on my toes around Meg. Honestly I don’t think we’ve ever talked about the making of the movie, the three movies that we’ve made.” He continued. “I think, in the best of all ways, we’re absolute peers and absolute friends but she’s constantly challenging me by the nature of how she does her job. It’s unspoken. It’s not a can you top this.” Clearly, their mutual friendship and respect for each other has been at the centre of their working relationship.
In reaction to Ephron’s recent passing, the stars have said:
“Nora was an era. We pictured ourselves inside her dreams and they became ours. All wisdom, wit and sparkle lights, what a treat she was, what a blessing. I marvel again and again, what a life… To have created a simple happiness in people, to have added to the sum of delight in the world.” — Meg Ryan
“Nora Ephron was a journalist/artist who knew what was important to know; how things really worked, what was worthwhile, who was fascinating and why. At a dinner table and on a film set she lifted us all with wisdom and wit mixed with love for us and love for life. Rita and I are so very sad to lose our friend who brought so much joy to all who were lucky enough to know her…” — Tom Hanks
Clearly, Hanks and Ryan were the face of the Romantic Comedy genre for a while, they formed the image of the ‘perfect onscreen couple’. And, despite in future years, Jennifer Aniston starring in some box office clangerrom-coms. It is Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan whose smart, witty and effortlessly romantic films which will always be the face of the Romantic Comedy genre.