Meg Ryan was once considered Hollywood’s most coveted “It Girls” in her heyday. Her striking smile and captivating blue eyes set her apart from the crowd, and despite never envisioning herself as an actress, she captivated audiences with her versatile performances.
Her acting journey began when she portrayed Debbie Blake in the 1981 drama “Rich and Famous.” Later, she joined the cast of the CBS soap opera “As The World Turns,” where she took on the role of Elizabeth “Betsy” Stewart.
In the mid-’80s, she took on a supporting role in the box office hit “Top Gun,” alongside Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer, and Kelly McGillis among others. She then achieved critical acclaim with her appearance in the 1987 film, “Promised Land.” That same year, she also filmed the sci-fi movie “Innerspace,” where she met her husband, Dennis Quaid.
Despite an initial attraction, they did not start dating until they starred in the thriller film “D.O.A” the following year. They exchanged vows on Valentine’s Day in 1991 and welcomed their son Jack in 1992.
Ryan disclosed that they had not planned the wedding and had woken up one morning and decided that was the day. They went to City Hall, but the line was too long, so they had their concierge at the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles track down a minister, and the lovebirds married in their hotel room.
A year into their dating, Ryan landed her breakthrough role playing Sally in the romantic comedy-drama “When Harry Met Sally,” a role that earned her a Golden Globe nomination. Over the next decade, her career spiked, making her a household name.
Unfortunately, the dramatic rise in her career did not sit well with her husband. Quaid, also an actor recognized for such films as “I Can Only Imagine,” “Strange World,” and “The Parent Trap,” among others, was not happy that his wife was more famous than him. During an interview, Quaid said he was a big deal when he and Ryan met, but as their relationship progressed, the tables turned.
His career began dwindling, even as Ryan gained more popularity. Whenever they would be out on the streets, fans would only shout her name, and slowly but surely, it started getting under Quaid’s skin. He confessed:
“I have to admit it. I actually did feel like I disappeared. I didn’t think I was that small, but I was.”
In retrospect, he says the jealous stint shouldn’t have happened. However, he long decided not to cry over spilled milk, took it as a learning opportunity, and has since grown from it. Sadly, as the world ushered in the dawn of a new millennium, “The Day After Tomorrow” actor and the “In The Land of Women” actress were mourning the end of their union.
Leaving Hollywood for a Quiet Life
Ryan and Quaid announced their separation in 2000, and their divorce became final in July 2001. However, they maintained a relationship even after the split because of their then-8-year-old son Jack.
Ryan’s break from Hollywood wasn’t just about her career.
In August 1998, sources reported seeing them together as they accompanied their son to the movies and church. They had been reportedly separated for a while at this point. Following the announcement of their separation, something else also started happening in Ryan’s life. She began hanging out with “Proof of Life” costar Russell Crowe.
And when Ryan and Quaid finally divorced, the rumor mills began spinning, with many speculating that she had left her union for Crowe. Ryan took a lot of heat for it, but years later, she clarified to the world that her seemingly happy marriage hadn’t “been a happening marriage” and had been a very unhealthy one for a long time.
She told Oprah she had made a colossal mistake by staying in her marriage longer than she should have: “It was never about another man. It was only about what my and Dennis’ relationship couldn’t sustain.”
She forever remains grateful for Crowe, who stood by her side despite being called a home-wrecker, something Ryan says could not be further from the truth:
“I didn’t leave my marriage for Russell Crowe. I left my marriage…My marriage wasn’t working.”
Initially, Ryan said neither she nor Quaid was to blame for the collapse of their marriage. She openly declared that “The Intruder” actor was an honorable man, and he had never cheated.
Ironically, Ryan later confessed that Quaid had cheated on her for a long time, but she only found out about it after their divorce. Each blamed the other for the failure of their marriage, with Ryan blaming Quaid’s wayward ways and Quaid blaming Ryan’s fame.
People’s perception of her was a far cry from the heroines she played in the movies that made America fall in love with her, and any attempts to clean her image hit a brick wall.
Even her confession about Quaid cheating on her did not shift the criticism from her. Eventually, Ryan and Quaid went through a highly publicized divorce, and instead of sympathizing with her, people continued to blame her for her doomed marriage.
The damage was already done, and there was no going back to being America’s sweetheart. Her disastrous streak was, unfortunately, not limited to her personal life.
The once-famous actress, who had made a name for herself with classics such as “Courage Under Fire,” “City of Angels,” and “When A Man Loves A Woman,” soon found herself appearing in box office flops, such as the 2003 “In The Cut.”
One minute she was the most coveted Hollywood actress; the next, she was burning through life experiences. Ryan said it was not a good look on her, noting:
“I was burned out. I didn’t feel like I knew enough anymore about myself or the world to reflect it as an actor. I felt isolated.”
Eventually, Ryan grew increasingly frustrated with the roles she got and her damaged reputation and decided to rethink her choices. A life away from the lights and glamor of Hollywood did not seem so bad.
After all, a less public, far more serene life would allow her some time to herself and help her concentrate on being a present mother to her son, Jack, and her daughter, Daisy True, whom she adopted from China in 2006. She eventually moved from Los Angeles to New York days after her son’s high school graduation and gladly stepped into her role as a single mother.
Even though her son always had his father and the two were close, Ryan preferred raising the kids on her own, observing that it was much easier than having to share the parenting roles with another adult:
“When you’re the only one in the house with the kids, you get to be the one in charge. You’re the one making the rules. There’s no stress because you and some other adult don’t agree on how you want to raise your kids.”
Her disappearance from Hollywood left behind a trail of rumor and speculation, but it was the life she had chosen, and it worked perfectly for her. During her time away, she prioritized her friends and family and spent plenty of time with her son and daughter. She also launched an e-commerce project with her friends that helped strengthen their bond.
Ryan Makes a Comeback – A Different Look and a Brand New Show
Despite the actress’s years-long hiatus from acting, she did not completely let go of her ties in the industry, and according to sources, she worked behind the scenes as a producer and director. Her first film to direct was “Ithaca,” released in 2015, and she seemingly enjoyed the experience and realized it could be her calling.
After returning to show business, Ryan received criticism for allegedly having work done on her face with publications and fans noting how different she looked during the 2016 Tony Awards. No one could ascertain for sure whether she did have work done to enhance her looks.
Still, Hollywood Life took it upon themselves to dig up the truth behind her new appearance and sought the opinion of plastic surgeon Mark Youssef from Younique Cosmetics.
Asked to give his expert opinion on Ryan’s new looks, he declared that, in fact, not only did she have something done, she had too much done. He said she looked different from the Ryan people have always known, and that could be why people reacted as they did to her new appearance. Youssef observed that Ryan had some filler or fat transferred to her cheeks, saying it was too much because her cheeks looked too large.
He also commented on her nose, saying it looked narrower than before. He thought she had a rhinoplasty, a procedure to make the nose look more pinched. She reportedly had volume added to her lips, Botox to her forehead, and a facelift.
Fans took to Twitter to express their opinions on her new looks, most of them criticizing her for choosing to go the cosmetic surgery way to enhance her appearance.
Ryan’s break from Hollywood wasn’t just about her career. She also needed some time away to figure out her love life after being through such a daunting experience with her first marriage. In 2010, she was bitten by the love bug and fell in love with singer-songwriter John Mellencamp.
Their relationship lasted four years before they broke up in August 2014. Unable to stay apart, they rekindled their flame in May 2017, and in 2018, they went a step further and got engaged, with the actress announcing her engagement to the singer on her Instagram.
Ryan and Mellencamp made for a beautiful love story. They would often be spotted grocery shopping in New York’s SOHO neighborhood or having coffee. They seemed like the perfect fit for each other, and as one observer noted:
“I thought that was her husband because they seemed [so] comfortable and familiar with each other, just like an old married couple.”
Unfortunately, the couple’s second attempt at making things work hit a brick wall. The pair broke up in 2019, with reports claiming the actress had broken off the engagement. According to a source: “She’d had enough and ended [their engagement]. She has no regrets.”
An insider claimed that the couple couldn’t make their relationship work because Mellencamp, who had been married thrice before, was hesitant to tie the knot a fourth time.
“He loves her, but marriage never seemed to be a part of it. It’s unclear how important a marriage was to Meg. But they spent a lot of time together and it’s too bad they split. They really got along so well together,” the source continued.
In 2021, Ryan was spotted wearing a ring on her engagement finger during lunch in Santa Monica. It raised questions about whether the actress was still engaged to Mellencamp or in a new relationship. She, however, kept mum about it, and it remained a mystery.
In June 2023, Mellencamp opened up about his ex in an exclusive interview: “I love Meg Ryan. I went with her for ten years. She doesn’t love me so much. She’s a great girl.”
Ryan’s Thoughts on Her Years-Long Hiatus and Her New Movie
Ryan, who once said she lost her interest in acting, is finally back in the game, much to the delight of her fans and followers worldwide. The former rom-com icon has returned after an eight-year hiatus with “What Happens Later,” a romantic comedy she co-wrote, directed, and starred in alongside David Duchovny.
This marked her return to the rom-com genre since 2009’s “Serious Moonlight,” although she also appeared in the 2015 war drama “Ithaca,” where she made her directorial debut and shared the screen with Tom Hanks, Sam Shepard, and her son, Jack.
However, after “Ithaca,” the 61-year-old actress, turning 62 on November 19, 2023, deliberately chose to step away from the subtle yet inevitable trappings of fame in Hollywood. She no longer had any interest in the secluded world of celebrity, where stars were treated differently, shielded from the realities of everyday life.
Ryan described it as akin to sitting inside a luxurious car, where the outside noise faded into silence once the doors were closed. “I don’t think I was a very good famous person,” she confessed, admitting to feeling confined within the walls of her celebrity status. The bubble of fame felt limiting to her creativity, depriving her of life experiences to draw inspiration from.
To break free from this constriction, Ryan left Los Angeles, seeking a change. While she appreciated the admiration from fans who recognized her from iconic rom-coms like “Sleepless in Seattle” and “When Harry Met Sally,” she longed for a different, broader experience beyond the confines of Hollywood.
In her time away, Ryan embraced the role of a single mom, caring for her son Jack and her adopted daughter Daisy True. She valued the multifaceted aspects of her life, cherishing moments as a mom and relishing her diverse experiences. With her newfound perspective, she felt ready to share her voice through her latest film, marking her triumphant return to Hollywood.
In “What Happens Later,” Ryan takes on the role of Willa, an optimist who unexpectedly reunites with her former lover, Bill, portrayed by Duchovny, a pessimist. The chance encounter occurs when both find themselves stranded at an airport due to a snowstorm, forcing them to spend the night together as their connecting flights are delayed.
Their unexpected reunion becomes an opportunity to unpack their shared history, spanning two decades since their separation. As Willa and Bill navigate the complexities of their past relationship, their enduring personal connection becomes increasingly undeniable. The film delves into themes of love, second chances, and the intricate dynamics of former flames rediscovering each other after years apart.
For Ryan, the entire process of creating “What Happens Later” was a hands-on experience. She actively contributed as a co-writer and director from the initial stages of pre-production to the final touches in post-production.
Immersed in the project, Ryan found immense delight in shaping the narrative and bringing the characters of Willa and Bill to life on screen. The much-anticipated movie hit theaters on November 3, 2023, captivating audiences with its heartfelt story and compelling performances.
On November 2, 2023, the “Addicted to Love” alum posted a black-and-white photo of herself on Instagram. Fans were charmed by her enduring beauty, expressing delight at seeing their cherished star back on the silver screen. Some also praised her “stunning” appearance.