Tom Hanks Turned Down ‘When Harry Met Sally’ Due to Unrelatable Divorce Storyline

Tom Hanks was not in the rom-com mood when Nora Ephron called him about “When Harry Met Sally.”

Hanks, who went on to collaborate with Ephron and Meg Ryan on beloved genre classics “You’ve Got Mail” and “Sleepless in Seattle,” apparently could not relate to the idea of Harry (who was eventually played by Billy Crystal) being depressed after his divorce.

“People probably don’t know this, but Tom was offered when ‘Harry Met Sally’ and he turned it down because he was going through a divorce and he was very happy to be not married,” Hanks’ current wife and fellow filmmaker Rita Wilson said during an appearance on iHeartPodcast’s “Table for Two With Bruce Bozzi.”

She continued, “And so he could not understand that a person going through a divorce would have anything other than just like, ‘I’m so happy.’ But I loved that script.”

Hanks had divorced his first wife Samantha Lewes in 1987. The couple had been married since 1978, when Hanks was 21 years old. Hanks and Wilson met on set of “Volunteers” and tied the knot in 1988. Lewes died of bone cancer in 2002.

Albert Brooks, Michael Keaton, Harrison Ford, Bill Murray, and Richard Dreyfuss were allegedly also approached for the part. Billy Crystal eventually landed the iconic role, though director Rob Reiner was concerned that working with his close friend could “destroy” their personal relationship.

“It turned out way better than anything I could have imagined because not only was he great in the part, it made our friendship better,” Reiner told Variety in 2019 for the film’s 30th anniversary.

Ephron shared that she penned the script with Reiner in mind as Harry as they both were going through respective divorces at the time. Ephron separated from second husband Carl Bernstein in 1979, and Reiner split with Penny Marshall in 1981.

Reiner pushed to change the ending of “When Harry Met Sally” after meeting his future wife Michele Singer in the process of making the film. The last scene was originally supposed to be Harry (Crystal) and Sally (Ryan) walking away from each other for good.

“Because at that time, I couldn’t figure out how I was going to get with anybody, so I just had them walking in opposite directions at the end,” Reiner told The A.V. Club. “And then I met the woman who became my wife during the making of the movie, and I changed the ending. I loved making the movie, I loved the experience.”

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