‘You’ve Got Mail’ Turns 25! Tom Hanks Explains ‘Natural’ Chemistry With Meg Ryan (Flashback)


Dial up the old modem because You’ve Got Mail is 25! To celebrate, ET is cracking open our vault and looking back on interviews with the film’s stars, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, during their press tour for the 1998 romantic comedy. 

“It’s just a natural thing,” Hanks said of his chemistry with Ryan. “It’s like, why are we friends with the people that we’re friends with?” 

The actor, now 67, explained the surprising reason their on-screen dynamic was so powerful. 

“I must say, Meg and I are not real close pals,” he admitted. “We see each other every now and again. It’s like, we don’t hang out for coffee. … But when we pick up, we just pick up where we left off and it’s an effortless thing that I don’t think either one of us examines it too much because if we did, it’d be a problem.” 

He continued, “We don’t plan. We just do it.” 

The dynamic on-screen duo first joined forces in 1990’s Joe Versus the Volcano. Though the film itself was forgettable, the stars’ magnetism became an undeniable force. They reteamed in 1993 with Nora Ephron for Sleepless in Seattle, with the trio making magic once again with the New York City-set You’ve Got Mail five years later. 

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You’ve Got Mail centers on business rivals Kathleen (Ryan) and Joe (Hanks) — the former, an independent bookstore owner, and the latter, running a chain of mega bookstores — who unwittingly connect online and form an unlikely relationship.

“So much about this is, really, this odd examination of the franchising of America,” Hanks told ET at the time. “This concept of big chain stores coming into neighborhoods and changing the complexion of the neighborhoods, for both the good and the bad.”

For Ryan, now 62, the project served as a jumping off point for her introduction into the digital world. And for today’s audiences, it feels like something of a time capsule for those who lived through the rise of the internet age.

“They sent me a computer at the beginning of all this and I had never even turned on one,” she said, joking that her son — a then-5-year-old Jack Quaid — was already more technically savvy than she was. 

“It’s just so fun and I love email,” Ryan gushed. “I just love it. And I got turned on to it at the beginning of this movie.” 

Both Ryan and Hanks agreed, at the time, that the concept of chat rooms and instant messaging wasn’t for them. 

“I’ve been on email with one person and then instant message by somebody, and so four of us get all in the same room, but we always are trying to comment on things like five lines above where we’re typing, so it’s always been very confusing,” Hanks admitted. 

“I couldn’t understand what was happening,” Ryan said of her chat room experience. “It was all going fast, everyone was spelling badly.” 

Warner Bros. Pictures

Another thing Hanks and Ryan agreed on wholeheartedly was their admiration for each other’s work. 

“He’s a very inventive actor and really, really, really tries to find new things to do for every take,” Ryan gushed of her co-star. “He really challenges himself. You know, Nora could be done 10 takes ago, and he’d still be trying new and equally great things. I just think he’s fantastic.”

For his part, Hanks marveled at how Ryan pushed him in new ways as an actor. 

“I just go along for the ride,” he said. “But it’s like playing tennis with someone who’s a better tennis player than you are. Now, maybe you can beat them if you’re really on the game, but chances are, they’re going to beat you. And so it just makes you better. Then afterwards you have a nice lunch.”

At the film’s premiere, Hanks said that he found Ryan to be “very mysterious” while hailing her as one of the “particularly great women of the screen.” 

“I’m not quite sure really what makes her tick, and I think she kind of revels in the fact that I don’t know what makes her tick,” he said. “I think she protects that.”

To hear Ryan tell it, she was equally enamored with Hanks’ easy-going demeanor. 

“He’s just beyond being a generous person, he’s just incredibly generous with his energy, with everyone, you know?” she said. “Not just the actors in the movie, all the crew in the movie, the people on the street. I think another great thing is he receives attention well and he receives what people want to give him in a really graceful way. That’s something he’s done almost better than anybody.” 

Warner Bros.

Ryan was most recently in the spotlight for 2015’s Ithaca, a war drama in which she made her directorial debut and starred alongside Hanks, Sam Shepard and her son. Now, she’s returning to the world of rom-coms with What Happens Later. Ryan co-wrote, directed and stars in the film opposite David Duchovny

“You get to be front and center. You get to be involved with someone else’s creative life in an intimate way,” she recently told ET of her experience behind the camera. “That is cool. You learn how to talk to musicians, you learn how to search for the light with a [director of photography] whose life is about the light, sound. You become aware of life in a very intense way as a director.”


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