The central credo of Sleepless in Seattle is finest summed up in a line that Rosie O’Donnell says to Meg Ryan: “You don’t want to be in love; you want to be in love in a movie.” Nora Ephron’s Oscar-nominated basic, launched in 1993, doubles as a touch upon the best way Hollywood romance has perpetuated fantasies of what love appears to be like like. And but Sleepless can also be very a lot a fantasy itself, and a stunning one at that. Enjoying Becky, the sappy, wisecracking BFF to Ryan’s destiny-agnostic Baltimore Solar reporter, it was O’Donnell’s second function after 1992’s A League of Their Personal. Alongside a stacked ensemble that features Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Victor Garber, and Gaby Hoffmann, she’s an MVP. Even the best way Becky holds Cheetos, her pinkie raised as in the event that they’re wonderful eating, is amusing. Collectively, the 2 films made O’Donnell a star.
Though romantic comedies have been thriving because of sensations like Moonstruck and Fairly Girl, Sleepless was seen as a sleeper hit. TriStar Photos postponed its release from March to June, hoping the movie would function summer-blockbuster counterprogramming — the identical technique that TriStar’s sister studio, Columbia, had employed for When Harry Met Sally 4 years earlier. The tactic labored. Sleepless noticed the most important opening gross for a rom-com on the time and have become 1993’s fourth-highest-grossing launch. O’Donnell had been a profitable stand-up comedian, however her film profession soared after that. Finally, she deployed her charisma because the host of certainly one of TV’s finest daytime speak exhibits.
O’Donnell, who just lately moved to Los Angeles after years in New York and final appeared on Starz’s Run the World, stays certainly one of our most forthcoming celebrities. Interviews are certainly one of her presents; she has a knack for peppering solutions with attention-grabbing cultural references and particular anecdotes. So she referred to as me as much as discuss all issues Sleepless, together with the best way Bette Midler influenced her efficiency, the time a crew member taped her monologue to his leg so she may get Ephron’s phrases proper, and attending the premiere together with her good pal Madonna.
Only a few actors ever get two films back-to-back which can be nearly as good and impactful as A League of Their Personal and Sleepless in Seattle — and so they have been your first two! On the time, had you been attempting for some time to get film elements?
Properly, I by no means actually wished to be a stand-up comedian, per se. I all the time wished to be Vivian Vance or Shirley Sales space or Valerie Harper — I wished to be the humorous pal in one thing, most likely a sitcom. That was what I used to be dreaming of. Or being a backup singer for Bette Midler. These have been the 2 issues I had in my dream pile.
I used to be very fortunate once I obtained solid [in Sleepless] and met Nora Ephron, who modified my life in so some ways for the higher. We turned shut associates, and I lived in the identical constructing that she did. She obtained me the condo. So once I consider Sleepless, the very first thing I consider is Nora. After which I believe how superb it was that three summers in a row I used to be in one of many largest films, as a result of The Flintstones got here out proper after that. It was a fairly trippy experience. I don’t know that I used to be essentially wanting to be in films, however I didn’t say no after they got here round.
Had you been auditioning for lots of sitcoms?
On the time, I used to be a VJ on VH1. Penny Marshall noticed me and referred to as my agent and requested if I may play baseball, in order that’s how I obtained into A League of Their Personal. After which out of League, Nora Ephron got here and did a studying with me. At dinner, she mentioned to her two sons and [husband Nicholas Pileggi], “I met this comedian-actress girl today; her name is Rosie O’Donnell.” And Jacob, her homosexual son, mentioned, “Oh my God, I love her! She’s on VH1! She’s friends with Madonna! Mom, you’ve got to cast her.” So I all the time credit score Jacob Bernstein with being in Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle. However I believe it was a very lucky, fortunate three rolls of the cube.
If you have been auditioning for Sleepless, had Meg Ryan already been solid? The record of actresses thought-about for her function is fairly substantive: Julia Roberts, Kim Basinger, Michelle Pfeiffer.
Sure, Meg was already solid. They have been searching for Meg Ryan’s finest pal within the new Tom Hanks–Meg Ryan movie. I used to be like, What’s the possibilities I might be in two films in a row with Tom Hanks? It was simply out of nowhere from being a stand-up comedian. I used to be simply type of thrown into it, in a means. It was such a Hollywood story.
Yeah, it’s that Hollywood Kismet — an ideal storm of issues that vault you to the subsequent degree, so to talk. Each of those films star Tom Hanks, and so they’re additionally each directed by ladies, which was uncommon. And on high of that, each grossed over $100 million domestically. What did that imply to you, and really feel like for you, on the time?
I knew that it felt like one thing for my brokers, that they have been very enthusiastic about that. They thought it was a superb forecaster of your future work. Proper after Sleepless was popping out, I adopted [O’Donnell’s first child] Parker. It was very a lot a household factor. Nora was very invested within the child, and she or he actually did create that household feeling. Her sister Delia was there, and so they have been writing it collectively.
Nora mentioned a number of attention-grabbing issues about your function as Becky in varied interviews from that point. First, she said she employed you as a result of she felt such as you would do for Sleepless in Seattle what Whoopi Goldberg had performed for Ghost. Did she ever let you know that?
No, she by no means did.
How do you’re feeling about that at present?
That’s lots of stress. That was her Oscar-winning efficiency, was it not? I’m glad she hadn’t informed me that so I may go in there and do the most effective I may. I used to be saying to individuals throughout interviews that they need to give Bette Midler a residual test as a result of I used to be copying the best way Bette Middler walked, type of the best way she talked. It was an homage to Bette for me. Once I’m strolling with Meg within the park, I’m doing my Bette Midler stroll.
That makes a lot sense. A part of what makes Becky so memorable are the very particular, very female mannerisms that you simply give her: the best way she holds her hand out, the best way you increase your pinkie whereas consuming Cheetos.
It was all Bette Midler! I saved pondering, What would Bette do? How would Bette boost this half and make it come alive on the display screen, which she’s so good at doing? Nora by no means introduced it as much as me or by no means requested what the inspiration was. It was like Eve Arden from these previous movies: the humorous, caustic finest pal with a coronary heart of gold. It was an archetype, that character, and it was one which I had seen many occasions and all the time wished to play. The humorous finest pal was the aim once I was beginning as an actor, and I used to be so fortunate that I obtained to do it a bunch of occasions.
Nora additionally mentioned she informed you that you simply guys may rewrite traces in the event that they weren’t humorous. Do you bear in mind ever doing that?
I might have an argument together with her about that if she have been nonetheless round. Not solely did she not inform me that, however I had this actually lengthy two-page scene that was minimize down within the film about [Becky’s husband] Rick and the way we obtained within the automotive and he hit the tree. I’m doing this entire factor, and she or he yells, “Cut! It was ‘a tree,’ not ‘the tree.’” So I attempted it two extra occasions so I may get as shut as I may, and it’s not that I used to be rewriting — it was the longest speech I had ever mentioned in a movie in my profession as much as that time. She saved saying “Cut” once I wouldn’t get it proper. So we broke for lunch and once I got here again, one of many grips had taped the entire thing on his leg, away from the place she may see. I type of checked out his leg and browse it. And he or she mentioned, “Cut! That was perfect!” And what was good have been the phrases that she wrote.
So not solely may you not rewrite traces, however you needed to get each “a” and “the” right.
That’s completely right. When individuals write and direct, it’s their phrases. They’re related to them. There have been some performances the place it was largely improvisation, like League of Their Personal. The HBO one which I simply did, I Know This A lot Is True, we did 30 or 40 takes, some with the traces and a few simply made up — a special means of directing than Nora Ephron’s, which was very clear and succinct and arranged.
As a former stand-up, you have to like — or not less than have an appreciation for — that improvisatory mode of working.
Sure, and it comes very simply to me. I liked once I obtained to guest-star on Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm as a result of that’s all improvisation. They only provide the fundamental setup and you need to make it up from there. That, I believed, was actually thrilling to get to do as a stand-up comedian. However not lots of actors like improvisation. I bear in mind once I did my first sitcom, Stand by Your Man. The pilot was with Christine Ebersole. I used to be getting as near the traces as I may, and she or he was like, “The play’s the thing. It has to be on the page before it’s on the stage.” She’s a Broadway, Tony-winning actor. If you do performs, you’re not allowed to alter the phrases. However someway with TV or films there’s extra of a freedom generally. It relies on how the actor is educated.
Possibly Nora was being hyperbolic in regards to the freedom she allegedly gave you. Her level was that generally you’ll slip right into a Brooklyn accent as a substitute of a Baltimore one, and she or he felt like perhaps that was occurring as a result of the traces weren’t humorous sufficient.
I might slip into the Brooklyn factor as a result of that’s what I did for thus a few years. My act was all about that. It was troublesome. It was solely my second movie. I hadn’t actually labored that a lot, and I used to be attempting to measure as much as Meg and Tom.
What was your first assembly with Meg Ryan like?
It was completely like high-school girlfriends straight away. We talked about our households, and we had some comparable chaotic childhood stuff that we associated to one another and bonded over. I liked her straight away. She’s actually an excellent girl. She’s very good and cute and humorous and . The explanation America fell in love together with her is identical cause I fell in love together with her. She’s simple to like.
My favourite scene, and perhaps probably the most well-known scene within the film, is when the 2 of you’re sitting on the couch lip-syncing the scene from An Affair to Bear in mind. What do you bear in mind about that sequence?
I do not forget that it was Nora’s favourite film, An Affair to Bear in mind. I made certain to look at it again and again. That is pre-computer occasions, so a VHS in your room. On the lodge, they needed to hook up the machine for you. I bear in mind watching it and watching it and pondering, I simply wish to get this proper. I hadn’t been acquainted with that film, to let you know the reality, earlier than I used to be solid.
You attended the film premiere with Madonna, who you have been good associates with at that time. Did you simply name her up and say, “Come with me”?
Yep. I mentioned, “I got a premiere for my new movie. Will you come?” She mentioned, “Sure! Tell me when.” We went and picked her up, and my sister was there and a few of my brothers. It was like a giant household factor. I bear in mind Celine Dion was there as a result of she did the track [“When I Fall in Love”]. It was a time when nobody actually knew who Celine Dion was. I bear in mind telling her how nice I believed she was and her actually not talking a lot English. She was so sort and so enjoyable, and I obtained to know her higher once I had my present. We did some funny segments collectively, me and Celine.
I assume it was the success of Sleepless that obtained you the SNL hosting gig later that 12 months?
I’m probably not certain how I obtained that. A number of years later, whereas I used to be on my speak present, Penny Marshall went on for The Preacher’s Spouse with Whitney Houston. She requested me to come back co-host together with her as a result of she was scared, so I went and did it twice. Pay attention, to be in that large film and maintain my very own — it was an exquisite introduction to me as an actress after League of Their Personal. It was a a lot subtler character, extra refined, extra female, extra of knowledgeable girl. It was an excellent distinction. It confirmed I don’t solely have one kind to play, and it was very useful for me, career-wise.
Yeah, I take into consideration the record of films you made within the years proper after that and the vary of your roles: The Flintstones, Now and Then, Lovely Ladies, Harriet the Spy. What do individuals come as much as you to speak about most frequently at present?
It’s most likely Harriet the Spy now as a result of these children are of their 30s or no matter. Adults cease me and say, “Oh my God, you were Golly! I loved that movie when I was a kid!” Nevertheless it adjustments. The opposite week, I used to be on $100,000 Pyramid, which we filmed in the course of the pandemic someday. I went to the seashore that day, and I felt like Elvis: “You were great on Pyramid!” These days, with my hair minimize brief, until I speak, individuals don’t all the time understand it’s me.
Do you like it that means?
Pay attention, the wave of fame ultimately hits the shore. After which it goes again out, but it surely’s by no means as sturdy as the primary wave. Individuals attempt to determine their entire life, When is it time to get off the board and stroll as much as the surf and take a break? You may’t ever count on it to keep up itself, so I all the time had that imaginative and prescient of what a profession trajectory was like. It by no means actually scared me. I all the time knew it might have a finite starting and finish. I wasn’t seeking to maintain it. I might have stayed on my TV present if I used to be. I wished to spend time with my youngsters and get to be the mom that my mom by no means obtained to be, having died at 39. I believe I’ve all the time been fortunate to have a steadiness of the significance of actual life and the illusionary place of Hollywood.
I do know that a part of why you loved doing the speak present was so you might be a extra current guardian, however by the early 2000s, you have been on Broadway some, however we actually didn’t see you in films or scripted TV for a protracted whereas. Had you misplaced the appearing bug? What sort of roles have been coming your means by that time?
By the point I left my present in 2002, I used to be very well-known as that character. I believe it might have been onerous to solid me in a task in a film. I all the time knew as an actress that once I obtained into my 60s I might be taking part in the Geraldine Web page roles. I wasn’t going to have cosmetic surgery. I used to be going to look the best way a lady my age ought to look, and I all the time thought that will be a blessing in my older age. I might get to play the Colleen Dewhurst roles. That has turned out to be true. I’m getting all this appearing work now that I’m closing in on 60.
Which is extremely refreshing. So that you’re saying that individuals weren’t pondering of you for a lot of roles within the 2000s?
No, and I used to be additionally fairly incendiary. I used to be speaking about issues just like the battle being unlawful and immoral at a time when most individuals weren’t. I used to be speaking in regards to the issues with George Bush as a president. I used to be considerably polarizing. There have been some individuals who actually loved what I needed to say and thought, Good for you, you converse for me. And there have been different individuals who have been repulsed by it and thought, How dare she? So when you turn into recognized on your opinions and your passions, it’s onerous for individuals to see you as a clean canvas to mix into a personality.
I assume perhaps executives would have seen you as a casting danger, marketing-wise.
I don’t learn about a danger, essentially, however there have been safer selections they may make. I used to be additionally dwelling with my children. I wanted a protracted restoration from the six years I did [on The Rosie O’Donnell Show]. That superstardom is near a postmortem feeling. It’s isolating and disorienting. Fortunate for me, I had 5 youngsters to floor me and remind me of what’s essential. However make no mistake, that was a topsy-turvy time for me.
You talked about that you simply and Nora ended up dwelling in the identical constructing. I assume you crossed paths so much. What was your relationship like because the years went on?
It was nice. She invited me into her household and took me to the Hamptons on the weekends. Once I wanted an condo after I adopted Parker, she labored her magic on the Apthorp [on Manhattan’s Upper West Side]. I gave her a handful of cash and she or he gave it to the girl with the black hair, and there you go, I had an condo. It was an exquisite factor to stay actually proper above the Ephrons. Nora and I actually shaped an exquisite friendship, and I miss her to today.
What a stunning factor. Had been Nora and Penny Marshall associates in any respect?
No, I don’t suppose they ever met. They have been nearly like polar opposites.
That’s true, although they’re inarguably the most important American feminine administrators of the ’80s and ’90s.
Yeah, however to my information, they didn’t hang around or get involved with one another. Their life have been very totally different. Nora would throw events with stunning linens and desk settings. She was all the time gathering individuals for a Hanukkah/Christmas get together, Thanksgiving, Sunday dinners. And Penny was extra of a once-a-year-with-Garry [Marshall, her brother]. She was rather more into having fun with herself, not a married life elevating youngsters in New York Metropolis. They only had very totally different worldviews.
What’s your favourite non–Sleepless Nora film?
When Harry Met Sally, so far as the writing goes. I liked the Julia Youngster film; I believed that was stunning and touching. However Sleepless is my favourite of all her movies, and I believe it’s lots of people’s favorites. It actually strikes an exquisite tone, and the characters appear actual. It nonetheless holds up. I simply noticed it about 4 months in the past. My daughter was right here, and she or he was like, What is that this one? It might be good if my youngsters gave a crap about my movie profession, however they don’t.
So that you embraced a chance to alter that?
Yeah, I mentioned, “It’s my second movie, Viv!” She’s like, All proper, what was your first one? My son was 22 when he got here dwelling from a celebration and mentioned, “Mom, when we were at John’s house, they put on this movie that you were in and you were like a teenager! You sounded like Rocky.”
Do they care about your movie star associates? Are they fascinated that you simply’ve recognized Madonna for years and years?
No, none. There was a time when Vivvy or Chelsea would say, after Madonna left my home, “Mommy, that’s Madonna Madonna?” They couldn’t make the connection between the girl who was in my home with no make-up in her sweats to the girl they noticed in public. They have been like, How can that be her? “It’s really her, I’m telling you the truth.”
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Goldberg gained the Academy Award for Finest Supporting Actress for her efficiency in 1990’s Ghost.
Arden is understood for her supporting function as Joan Crawford’s pal in Mildred Pierce (1945), for which she acquired an Academy Award nomination.
O’Donnell seems as social employee Lisa Sheffer, appearing alongside Mark Ruffalo and Melissa Leo.
O’Donnell performs herself in Curb.
The present aired for one season in 1992.
The Rosie O’Donnell Present ran for six seasons from 1996 to 2002.
In 1995, O’Donnell performed grownup Roberta Martin, whose youthful model was performed by Christina Ricci.
In 1996, O’Donnell performed Gina Barrisano, one other outspoken-friend character.
In 1996, O’Donnell additionally performed Golly, the nanny to Michelle Trachtenberg’s Harriet.
A recreation present hosted by Michael Strahan.
Julie & Julia, the 2009 film starring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep.