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homeland security
status : TBR.
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in the land of women
status : in theatres.
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against the ropes
status : released on DVD
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Questions & Answers with Meg Ryan

America's girl-next-door takes on romance, revenge and man-eating dinosaurs

Clad in leather and sporting Heather Locklear-esque dark roots in her chopped hair, Meg Ryan takes charge of Addicted to Love like a raptor with a mean streak. In this romantic comedy, Ryan's Maggie is not the kind of girl who falls in love with a voice on the radio or fakes orgasm in a deli. Instead, she's got a broken heart and a twisted mind--and a hilarious bent for scorched-earth revenge on the guy who dumped her.

It should come as no surprise that the effervescent Ryan can access some dark, bubble-free depths. In the past three years, she's played an alcoholic (When a Man Loves a Woman), a madwoman (Restoration) and a military commander of uncertain capability (Courage Under Fire).

Of course, frothy comedies--like the huge hits When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle--are what made her a bankable star.

But there's another reason the 35-year-old actress keeps coming back to optimistic romances. (Even Addicted has a happy ending.) Personal experience tells her that's how things go.

Raised in a troubled Connecticut family--mom ran off to try acting when Meg was a kid--Ryan struggled to establish her own nuclear unit with Dennis Quaid, a womanizer with a drug problem when they fell in love. Ryan straightened out Quaid and, in turn, got a model husband, father and sometime costar.

Clearly, anyone who can manage a feat like that in Hollywood would have no trouble being versatile and persuasive in front of the camera, too.

I think people are going to look at you differently after they see you in Addicted. Then again, when Courage Under Fire came out last year, the media buzzed that you were finally outgrowing the America's Sweetheart thing, too.
How long do I stay in the departure lounge? I feel like everyone's been saying that to me for, like, the last three movies. I've played a heroin addict and a speed freak and dark characters throughout my career. But I understand that people have this image of me from Sleepless in Seattle. I don't even think I did that character right, but that's the movie most people saw. It's ironic, in a weird way.

You keep making romantic comedies. That's your problem.
I just love to do them. I'm a sucker for a funny script. And then, as soon as I don't wanna be, one comes along and grabs me.

Maggie's a little more frightening than funny.
She is mean, but it comes from kind of a hurt place. Like all the characters in the movie, they're different than you first think. But she does get her revenge in a very original way. And she never gets sentimental, which in itself is pretty brave. I've never played somebody so flamboyant or extreme.

What's the worst thing you ever did to get back at an ex-boyfriend?
Nothing, really. I wish I had been that vengeful at some point, if only to help promote this movie.

With any luck, it won't inspire any copycat crimes.
You should've seen this movie in front of the ratings board. They were trying and trying and trying to get a PG, and there was just no way it was going to happen. There's not one swear word in the movie--well, maybe one. But it was just that the whole concept was perverse enough for them to give it an R. They were reading off the things we'd have to eliminate to get a PG, and the ratings-board guy was laughing. "That was a great line," he'd say. "You have to lose it, though."

Funny, people get torn in half in The Lost World: Jurassic Park--against which Addicted to Love is opening--and it's rated PG-13. How come you don't make nice, family-oriented blockbusters like that?
I'm really not interested in event movies. A lot of times, the women in those movies are only powerful in terms of their anger or sexuality, which is kind of what Maggie is--angry and powerful--but she's got a lot of other complicating issues. And it's funny.

Yes, but is that enough to keep your movie from being devoured by the dinosaurs?
Well, we know it's a good movie. But it is frustrating sometimes. This industry, and people in general, are more interested in the horse-race aspect of the box-office chart than the quality of the movies. And the insidious thing is that people will either see a movie because it did well last weekend or won't see it because it didn't do well.

It's interesting to know that Independence Day or the original Jurassic Park made all that money. But those are entirely different kinds of things. And who cares, five years down the road, what most movies made or didn't make? If it's good, it stands up.
The conventional wisdom is that independent films are the good ones these days. Why don't you make more of them?
I have that sensibility. It's much more natural for me to do a smaller idea than a bigger idea. But in a way, I feel like I'd pollute the thing. Because of whatever star status I'd bring to the project, it'd jack up the expectations. I don't want to say I can't do those movies, because I really want to. Some of these independent filmmakers are incredible.

So, success does have its drawbacks.
I dunno. I have a very good life, so I have nothing to complain about. Sometimes, I just have existential angst.

How's Dennis?
He's really good. He's going to direct a movie for TNT. He's all excited, shooting it in Montana, near our ranch. Then he's in the remake of The Parent Trap, which is one of my top-five favorite movies.

How do you pass the time when he's off working and you're not?
As a mom, I feel like I'm the most boring person in the universe. I think I should have hobbies or something, y'know? But I'm a mom, man. That takes up most of my time.

Your son, Jack, just turned five. How are you going to handle it when he starts school in the fall?
Well, I'm not looking forward to it, but what am I gonna do, not send him?

Is he one of the reasons you're the lead voice in Anastasia in the big animated feature Fox is bringing out in the fall?
I don't know what the motivation was. I was just totally won over by these animators. They did a presentation in which they animated people I knew--and me. Then they showed me all these huge, watercolor drawings of what St. Petersburg palace was going to look like. I was, like, "Okay, I'll do what you want." I was really caught up with them.

Sounds cute. Still, Rasputin and Bolsheviks and the assassinated Russian royal family sounds like strange stuff to base a colorful cartoon musical on.
Doesn't it? But it really is about a girl who's looking for her family.

And right now, you're making a movie about an angel who's looking for love.
City of Angels. It's loosely based on the Wim Wenders movie Wings of Desire--a beautiful story.

Nicolas Cage is the angel, right?
Yeah. Some of the conventions are the same, like the angels can hear thoughts, but we don't know they're there. It's mainly the last part of the Wenders film, where he falls in love with the trapeze artist. But I'm not falling for anything; I'm a heart surgeon.

And it's directed by?
Brad Silberling.

The guy who made Casper?
Yeah, it's the only other thing he's done. But, man, he knows what he's doing.

And with you and Nic, I'd say he's in good hands. Despite all the girl-next-door labeling, you have a pretty good record of interesting performances, even in movies that aren't so swift.
Well, y'know, I did a soap opera for a long time. A lot of it was so vapid, and you had to keep trying to make it about something that, generally, the words weren't about. It's surprising, because a lot of what an actor does isn't about what you say, it's how you behave. The challenge is to fill in all the stuff behind it. It's easy enough to render a scene, but to make a person say those words...that's the trick.