A backstage look at the making of Nora Ephron’s revered trilogy–When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, and Sleepless in Seattle–which brought romantic comedies back to the fore, and an intimate portrait of the beloved writer/director who inspired a generation of Hollywood women, from Mindy Kaling to Lena Dunham.
In I’ll Have What She’s Having entertainment journalist Erin Carlson tells the story of the real Nora Ephron and how she reinvented the romcom through her trio of instant classics. With a cast of famous faces including Reiner, Hanks, Ryan, and Crystal, Carlson takes readers on a rollicking, revelatory trip to Ephron’s New York City, where reality took a backseat to romance and Ephron–who always knew what she wanted and how she wanted it–ruled the set with an attention to detail that made her actors feel safe but sometimes exasperated crew members.
Along the way, Carlson examines how Ephron explored in the cinema answers to the questions that plagued her own romantic life and how she regained faith in love after one broken engagement and two failed marriages. Carlson also explores countless other questions Ephron’s fans have wondered about: What sparked Reiner to snap out of his bachelor blues during the making of When Harry Met Sally? Why was Ryan, a gifted comedian trapped in the body of a fairytale princess, not the first choice for the role? After she and Hanks each separately balked at playing Mail’s Kathleen Kelly and Sleepless‘ Sam Baldwin, what changed their minds? And perhaps most importantly: What was Dave Chappelle doing … in a turtleneck? An intimate portrait of a one of America’s most iconic filmmakers and a look behind the scenes of her crowning achievements, I’ll Have What She’s Having is a vivid account of the days and nights when Ephron, along with assorted cynical collaborators, learned to show her heart on the screen.
“[Erin Carlson] offers a breezy, detailed rehearsal of three successful romantic comedies from the 1980s and ’90s…. A large bag of buttery popcorn that goes down oh so pleasantly.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Don’t you love New York in the fall?”
You’ve Got Mail, the late-90s romcom starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, has special sentimental meaning to me. On Valentine’s Day 1999, a close male friend (‘We are never going to date’) and I decided to boycott the lovey-dovey holiday as only cynical single college seniors can do. How did we do that? Well, we went to see You’ve Got Mail. But in our defense, we went as just. friends. It was there, while falling in love with Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan all over again, that I started falling in love with my best friend. The casual shoulder brush as we sat beside each other… the one that had never fazed me before in all the other movies we’d watched together …. but this one made me take notice.
But I think what makes this movie so treasured to me is not just the fact that this movie non-date date marks the beginning of the end of our insistence that ‘We are never going to date’. It also mirrors the way I fell in love with my husband (the close male friend of said holiday boycotting). We didn’t meet in a chat room and we weren’t competing for a career, but our friendship built through our conversations – over the phone, at lunch, over email and instant messaging. Until it finally reached a point where I couldn’t imagine myself with anyone else ‘as long as we both shall live’. Some days now, 17 years in to our marriage, I need to remind myself of why and how we fell in love. And that’s one of the many reasons that Erin Carlson’s I’ll Have What She’s Having has so captured my heart.
Any fan of When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and/or You’ve Got Mail will love this book too. So many fun behind the scenes tidbits – not just about Nora Ephron but including Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, and other cast and crew of each film. You’ll get an insider peek at the origination of your favorite lines – lines that are now in the unofficial romcom hall of fame.
Recognize any of these?
- “I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts.”
- “I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”
And of course…
- “I’ll have what she’s having!”
In this glimpse at the production process for three of my favorite movies, we learn how those famous lines came into being. Lines that now we can’t possibly imagine the script without. You also discover other actors and actresses who were contending for the parts that became defining roles for Billy Crystal, Tom Hanks, and Meg Ryan. And you get a lot of fun somewhat-unrelated Hollywood trivia. For instance, did you know that Rob Reiner and Penny Marshall were married once upon a time? Or that My Big Fat Greek Wedding is the largest grossing romcom to date? Or that Nora Ephron’s second husband was Carl Bernstein, the journalist of Watergate fame? Do you know what role Meg Ryan turned down in order to play the leading role of Sally?
Bottom Line: I’ll Have What She’s Having brings beloved movies – beloved characters – to life in new ways. By the end of this engaging, conversational and witty book, you will adore Tom Hanks even more than you already do. And you’ll for sure want to pull these movies out of your DVD cabinet and snuggle in for an epic romcom movie night! A great read, a perfect blend of nostalgia, honesty and snark.
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 4 stars / Such fun!
Reviewer’s Note: Readers may want to be aware that there is some scattered profanity throughout this book.
Erin Carlson has covered the entertainment industry for The Hollywood Reporter and AP. Her work has appeared in Glamour, Fortune, and the LA Times. She compiled and wrote an oral history of You’ve Got Mail for Vanity Fair. She holds a masters in magazine journalism from Northwestern, and has been profiled in the New York Times.
Follow Erin on Twitter.
TLC Book Tours and Hachette Books are offering a copy of I’ll Have What She’s Having to one of my readers! (US/CAN only) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.
What about you? What’s your favorite romcom movie?