Sleepless in Seattle was a meta-rom-com that managed to comment—both humorously and seriously—on the unrealistic expectations of love that the grand romantic movies of the past have bestowed on their audiences, while being one of the most popular romantic movies ever filmed. Here are 15 facts about the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan classic that will help you sleep better at night.
1. IT WAS NORA EPHRON’S FIRST MAJOR DIRECTORIAL JOB.
She was behind the camera for 1992’s This Is My Life first, but Sleepless in Seattle proved to be her first big hit as director. Ephron also co-wrote the Oscar nominated screenplay with Jeff Arch and David S. Ward. (Nora’s sister, author-screenwriter-playwright Delia Ephron, did an uncredited “punch up” to make the movie funnier.)
2. SHE HAD A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH THE MOVIE THAT SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE REFERENCES.
There is a lot of talk of—and intentional plot points taken from—the 1957 Cary Grant movie An Affair to Remember. When the film came out, Ephron’s mother took her teenage daughter to see it. After the happy ending concluded, and while Eprhon was still in tears, her mother introduced her to the star of the movie.
3. JULIA ROBERTS TURNED DOWN THE LEAD.
In a 2014 interview with InStyle, the Oscar-winning actress shared that she had been "offered Sleepless in Seattle but couldn't do it," adding that, "[Meg Ryan] and Tom Hanks are just such a jewel of a fit in that. I guess what they did for that moment in time is sort of what Richard [Gere] and I were doing across town (in the 1990 film Pretty Woman), you know?"
4. TOM HANKS ALSO TURNED IT DOWN.
Before Ephron took a pass at rewriting the script, Hanks was offered the lead and said no, as he didn’t think he was right for the part.
5. JASON SCHWARTZMAN AUDITIONED TO PLAY HANKS' SON, JONAH.
They went with Ross Malinger instead. Malinger retired from acting in 2006 to manage a car shop in Malibu.
6. PARKER POSEY WAS CUT OUT OF HER FEATURE DEBUT.
If the actress's scene hadn’t been cut, Sleepless in Seattle would have been Posey's first acting role in a Hollywood movie. Ephron kindly sent her a note to say that it wasn’t her fault that her scene was taken out. In 1998, Posey reunited with Ephron, Hanks, and Ryan for You've Got Mail.
7. SAM AND ANNIE LIVED IN CHICAGO AT THE SAME TIME (BEFORE THE EDITOR GOT A HOLD OF IT).
A first act scene was shot which revealed that Annie (Ryan) had at some point lived in Chicago at the same time as Sam (Hanks). Editor Robert Reitano cut it.
8. EPHRON ATTEMPTED TO RE-CREATE A NEW YORKER COVER IN THE OPENING SCENE.
The Chicago skyline is well showcased at the funeral. It was meant to evoke Saul Steinberg’s 1976 New Yorker cover, View of the World From 9th Avenue, that shows Manhattan as the center of the world.
9. EPHRON WAS THE VOICE OF A DEPRESSED PERSON.
The director voiced one of the radio callers, "Disappointed in Denver.”
10. ANNIE WALKED OUT OF THE SAME DOOR IN BALTIMORE THAT SAM DID IN SEATTLE.
The door was actually shipped almost 3000 miles to help connect the two main actors.
11. THE SOUP NAZI WAS REFERENCED IN THE FILM, TWO YEARS BEFORE SEINFELD DID.
When a writer in Annie’s office was pitching a story and talked of a man that “sells the greatest soup you have ever eaten” while simultaneously doubling as “the meanest man in America,” he was talking about Ali “Al” Yeganeh, the proprietor of Soup Kitchen International. For what it’s worth, Yeganeh is from Iran, not Germany.
12. TOM HANKS ARGUED THAT HIS CHARACTER WOULD TRY HARDER TO GET LAID.
In the script, Sam opts out of spending the night with Victoria because Jonah gets upset. Hanks argued to Ephron that it was “horseshit." After not getting some for four years, Sam would leave Jonah to cry with the babysitter and go be with his girlfriend. The solution was to have Sam determined to leave for the night until Jonah snuck off to get on a plane to New York.
13. BILL PULLMAN WAS TOLD HE WOULD HAVE A BIGGER ROLE.
According to the actor who played Annie’s allergy-afflicted boyfriend Walter, the movie was described to him as more of a The Philadelphia Story situation: a love triangle where he would play the Jimmy Stewart to Hanks’s Cary Grant (there’s that name again) and Ryan’s Katharine Hepburn.
14. THEY FILMED IN SEATTLE DURING A DROUGHT.
Water trucks had to be brought in to make some rain. The waste of water angered the city.
15. TRISTAR GOT 25 TO 30 PHONE CALLS A DAY FROM PEOPLE WANTING TO KNOW WHAT TIRAMISU WAS.
Since Rob Reiner’s character Jay only used tiramisu as a word for a sexual act, without mentioning that it was also an Italian dessert, some moviegoers resorted to calling the distributor of the film for answers. (It was the pre-mental_floss or Google days of 1993, after all.) Reiner has gone on record to say that he finds tiramisu "overrated."
15 Heartfelt Facts About 'Sleepless in Seattle'
15 facts about the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan classic