A journalism major in college, Meg Ryan quickly shows how she might have
developed a jeweler's eye for story angles if she had become a reporter.
The angle on her since her last film -- the underappreciated "Courage
Under Fire", in which she plays a medevac pilot nominated as the
first female Medal of Honor winner -- is that she's trying to depart from
her cutesy, girl-next-door image, that she wants to relinquish the scepter
of the Reigning Queen of Romantic Comedies.
That could be the angle on her latest film, too, for in "Addicted
to Love" she plays a spurned lover whose single-minded interest in
payback and Darth Vader-cum-Catwoman appearance make her seem more like
the Queen of Mean.
But stop the presses!
That angle is wrong, she says.
"I don't have a career that I plan out and plot because ... I don't
really think you can do that. It's more up to fate than anything,"
Plus, she points out, she's made a score of movies, many of which were
dramas, including "Flesh and Bone," "Promised Land"
and "The Doors," in which she played Jim Morrison's wife.
"I've played speed freaks and heroin addicts -- movies that people
didn't see but I've been doing," she says. "So I don't have
this conscientious thing like I'm going to change my image, because I'm
not cultivating one. It's for you guys to do... That's an angle people
take -- they've taken it on this movie, too, the 'conscientious departure'
idea, which I don't have at all."
The 35-year-old actress, whose biggest successes were "When Harry
Met Sally ..." and "Sleepless in Seattle," says she loves
romantic comedies and always hopes to be able to make such films.
Protests aside, Ms. Meg Ryan is ... cute -- and has been for a long time.
(She was voted "cutest" at her Connecticut high school in 1979.)
She can be giggly in person, almost girlish, just like her screen persona.
But as writer Nora Ephron once said about her: "She's very strong
and very centered. She knows who she is and what she wants."
In fact, she can be matter-of-fact. And Ms. Meg Ryan will have you know
that she's not a romantic in any treacly way -- although she and Dennis
Quaid did get married on Valentine's Day in 1991.
"I'm not gooey, and kind of mushy. I feel like I'm kind of unsentimental,"
And unlike the character she plays in "Addicted to Love," she's
never really done anything crazy for love herself -- even though she notes
that it would serve her in doing publicity for this film to tell a story
"It would make me too nervous to do something like that. I often
feel, if I've been rejected, I've been rejected. I can take it -- I'll
just go quietly and lick my wounds."
Such thinking apparently applies to the ever-so-sore point of her estrangement
from her mother, too.
When Ms. Ryan was about 15, her mother left her and her three siblings
to pursue a career. By most reports, Ms. Ryan felt forsaken, and things
went downhill from there -- especially since her mom and mom's current
husband, writer Pat Jordan, had some unkind things to say about Mr. Quaid.
Ms. Meg Ryan has had little to say in response over the years, a move
that can be seen as taking the highroad. And in talking with The Associated
Press, she concedes that while she sees little downside to stardom, she
chafes at her bitter nonrelationship with her mother becoming fair game
for the entertainment-news media.
Pushed a little more to elaborate on the scale of her anger, distaste
or whatever she's feeling in her head and heart, she begins, "It's
... " Then she stops and says simply, "No comment."
She quickly brightens, though, when told that some 25 Web sites on the
Internet are devoted to her and her movies.
"Really! I had no -- really! ... Oh my God!"
Then she launches into how being a celebrity is an abstract experience
"Because the reality of it is, you're not like famous every minute.
Like when I'm not acting, I don't really think of myself as an actress.
When the movie's about to come out, I realize that week I'll be a little
more famous than the week before, because of all the commercials.
"But other than that, it's not how I define myself. It's not what
I say I am to myself."
And it can have a Max Headroom-meets-Marshall McLuhan surrealism to it.
"It's weird to do the David Letterman show. ... You're kind of looking
at David Letterman's face, and you're thinking, 'I usually see his face
on TV. There's his face right there, so I guess I must be on TV.' So then
your mind goes outside yourself. ... It's not normal, and I hope it never
gets normal for me. I just don't want that to be normal. I have a fun
time while I'm doing it. But in that way it's abstract."
Anyway, she says, what supersedes everything is that she's a mom.
"It's this thing you give yourself to, and it gives back to you,"
says Ms. Ryan, whose son Jack Henry turned 5 in April. "So I love
that part. You love your child and he loves you back."
There's little abstract about that, she says, and she enjoys being a mother
so much that it even feels recreational to her.
"I have great friends. I have a really good marriage and a really
good thing going. So being at home is fun for me."
And the key to a successful marriage?
"I don't know. A lot of it is just luck," she says, giggling
that giggle that so many moviegoers find endearing. "Just luck that
you think the same way about wanting to keep your marriage together, and
not thinking of it as an institution, just thinking (of it) as two people
who are gonna be changing, and the whole thing is going to be in flux.
And that's the only concrete thing about it: It's just going to constantly
change, and you gotta let it happen. Don't assume a role; let it change."
Meg Ryan, star of "Addicted to Love," poses at a New York hotel.
The reigning Queen of Romantic Comedy notes she's done plenty of drama,
too, playing "speed freaks and heroin addicts."