Was actress Meg Ryan's career ruined by Hollywood's prejudice against women of a certain age or was it ruined by her bad choices in movies and alleged plastic surgery? A lot of people on the Internet have been talking about Ryan, ever since People magazine revealed that she is the subject of a cover story about why Ryan (who is 51) has faded from the public spotlight. The People magazine issue went on sale on Oct. 4, 2013. After People put the story about Ryan on its website, it became the most-read story on People's website. Ryan's name also became a Top 10 trending topic on Yahoo.
The People magazine story is fairly kind to Ryan. The article claims that she deliberately backed away from Hollywood to spend a quiet life in New York City with her singer/musician boyfriend John Mellencamp, 61, whom she's been dating since 2010. (Mellencamp was reportedly separated from his third wife, Elaine, when he and Ryan began dating. John and Elaine Mellencamp got divorced in 2011.) Ryan has also been raising her 8-year-old daughter, Daisy, whom she adopted as a baby from China. Ryan has a 20-year-old son named Jack from her marriage to ex-husband Dennis Quaid, whom Ryan co-starred with in a few movies. Jack is also an actor.
However, based on most of the Internet comments that have been made in reaction to the People magazine story about Ryan, most people don't believe that Ryan chose to walk away from Hollywood and semi-retire as an actress. Many people believe that Hollywood lost interest in her after she had a string of flop movies. Many commentators say that Ryan's drastically changed face (which many people believe is the result of bad plastic surgery) is a big reason why her popularity has faded and why she isn't working as much as an actress.
Ryan's career may have also been torpedoed by her reputation for being a difficult and demanding diva behind the scenes. According to the New York Daily News: "After her boxing film, 'Against the Ropes,' hit the mat, she's said to have asked her William Morris agents to cut their usual 10 percent commission. According to a source familiar with the talks, she wanted them to make nothing off her first $2 million in salary and just 5 percent on her wages above that. Agency head Jim Wiatt 'didn't want to lose a big star, so he gave in to her,' says the source."
Those kinds of demands only work over time if the star continues to have big hits. And as far as "age discrimination" as the main reason for the decline in Ryan's career, that's arguable, since there are some actresses in Ryan's age group (such as Sandra Bullock, Sarah Jessica Parker, Julia Roberts, Halle Berry and Jennifer Aniston) who continue to headline movies and have relatively successful careers. Many other famous actresses in the same age group have had great success in television or continue to act in movies in prominent supporting roles.
People are also saying that Ryan's career began to go downhill when her extramarital affair with her "Proof of Life" co-star Russell Crowe was made public. Ryan and Crowe reportedly began their affair when they were working together on the movie, which bombed when it was released in 2000. Ryan and Quaid divorced in 2001. Quaid has publicly admitted to having problems with substance abuse, including a cocaine addiction that he says is in his past.
Crowe reportedly dumped Ryan because she wanted a more serious relationship with him than he was willing to give to her. There were also rumors that Crowe broke up with Ryan because he thought the bad publicity about the affair might ruin his career. He went on to win an Oscar (for the 2000 movie "Gladiator"), while Ryan's career went on a downward spiral.
In 2008, Ryan commented to Hello! magazine about her affair with Crowe: "Russell wasn't a homewrecker. He didn't talk and I'll always be grateful to him for that. But I did not leave my marriage for him. I left because it was not working." Ryan also told other media outlets over the years that her marriage to Quaid was in major trouble by the time she got involved with Crowe. In 2008, when Ryan was promoting her flop remake of "The Women," she said in interviews that Quaid was also an unfaithful spouse during their marriage. She told InStyle magazine: "Dennis was not faithful to me for a long time, and that was very painful."
Quaid responded by issuing this public statement in 2008: "It was eight years ago, and I find it unbelievable that Meg continues publicly to rehash and rewrite the story of our relationship. Also, I find it regrettable that our son, Jack, has to be reminded in a public way of the turmoil and pain that every child feels in a divorce. I, myself, moved on years ago and am fortunate to have a happy, beautiful family."
Quaid married his third wife, Kimberly Buffington, in 2004. Their twins Thomas and Zoe were born in 2007 and were infamously given an accidental overdose of heparin in a hospital, days after they were born. The twins recovered, but Quaid publicly waged a campaign for hospital reform. In 2012, Quaid and Buffington filed for divorce, reconciled, and filed for divorce again.
It is unclear why People magazine chose this particular week to put Ryan on the cover. Ryan was not interviewed for the article, which instead interviews some of her close friends and associates.
Celebrities are usually on the cover of People for one of these reasons:
- They have have something new to promote or publicize, whether it's a work project, a marriage, a romance or a new addition to their family.
- They are involved in a recent newsworthy (often scandalous) story.
- They are ranked at No. 1 on one of People's lists.
In Ryan's case, none of the above applies.
Her most recent movie was 2009's "Serious Moonlight," a dark comedy which flopped. She returned to acting in 2012 with a guest appearance on the HBO series "Curb Your Enthusiasm," whose co-star Cheryl Hines directed "Serious Moonlight." In 2013, Ryan made guest appearances on Showtime's "Web Therapy," starring Lisa Kudrow.
Despite People magazine's claim that Ryan chose to leave the public spotlight, Ryan is no Brigitte Bardot, the French actress/sex symbol who became notoriously reclusive in her later years. In June 2013, Ryan accepted the Tao Arte award at the Taormina Filmfest in Taormina, Italy. And in April 2013, she walked the red carpet at the opening of the Broadway play "Lucky Guy," which starred her former co-star Tom Hanks. "Lucky Guy" was written by the late Nora Ephron, who also wrote and directed 1988's "Sleepless in Seattle" and 1998's "You've Got Mail," two movies that starred Hanks and Ryan. Ephron also wrote 1989's "When Harry Met Sally," which starred Ryan and Billy Crystal, and is still considered one of Ryan's best movies.
Many observers believe that the People magazine story is part of a plan for Ryan to make a comeback. Time will tell if all this recent publicity will work in reviving Ryan's career.
Here's a sampling of comments from People's magazine's website:
"I always just assumed after that horrific plastic surgery she got she had no choice but to hide from all cameras everywhere."
"She cheated and was honest about it and continued to see russell for a while. As far as her husband cheating on her is something i dont know. I know all the Meg Ryan people will stick up for her and say he did but i never read or heard any proof of it."
"Probably after the Russell Crowe incident she's probably a little embarrassed to be in the limelight any longer not to mention killing her marriage a la Tiger Woods in the process. Oh well, selling apples on street corners isn't so bad."
"I didn't know she was dating John Mellencamp. I'll always love her performances in 'When Harry Met Sally' and 'Sleepless in Seattle.' I really liked her in 'The Women,' as well. I think of her similar to the way I think of Julia Roberts. A couple of GREAT movies that I'm grateful for. And that's about it. Who knows, both could make a comeback in more mature roles as long as they don't plastic surgery themselves up too much. (Of course, that ship may have already sailed.)"
"I assumed she stopped making films because she became too old in the eyes of movie producers, and that the sickening plastic surgery she had has rendered her looking somewhat ridiculous."
"So some of her films bombed, true, but whether they did or not the paparazzi are vultures and the now Hollywood is a travesty with no privacy for anyone that is well known. Good for Meg and I wish her well."
"Meg...I wish you well. You were always one of my favorites and what ever it is you decide to do outside of Hollywood to make you feel better is ok with me. I'll continue to watch older movies that you were in because...you were one of my favorites."
"I always liked her,she was a real cutie. I think her botched surgery that ruined her fabulous looks had a lot to do with her leaving. She was way too good looking to have surgery, so sad."
"I agree. her surgery killed her career."
Oct. 11, 2013 update: It seems as if Ryan really wants to be in the spotlight after all. She has signed on to executive produce and star in a TV pilot (title to be announced) for NBC.
According to The Hollywood Reporter: "In the half-hour single-camera comedy from writer and former 'Family Ties' Emmy nominee Marc Lawrence, Ryan will play a sunny, devoted and desperately non-confrontational single mom who decides to return to her New York publishing house where she was once a brilliant editor to find that she now works for Brenda, a neurotic 30-year-old who was once her former intern. Now she must find a way to keep her boss, her teenage kids, her almost ex-husband and her meddlesome mother-in-law all happy, which results in her over-complicating every situation and somehow always making it worse. Ryan will executive produce the project with manager Jane Berliner for Universal Television and Lawrence's Reserve Room Productions."
Ryan's previous efforts in starring in TV were short-lived failures. Her 1982 sitcom "One of the Boys" (on NBC) was quickly cancelled, as was her 1985 Western TV show "Wildside," which lasted just one month on ABC.