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Rob Reiner Says ‘When Harry Met Sally’ Was Supposed to Have a Sad Ending

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures / Zayne / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures / Zayne / MovieStillsDB

Billy Crystal is well-known for his roles in City Slickers (1991), Throw Momma from the Train (1987), and Mr. Saturday Night (1992). However, his most iconic role and the one he is best remembered for is that of Harry Burns in When Harry Met Sally (1989). Crystal appears to agree with this, as for his 75th birthday, he surprised fans with a special treat that paid homage to his famous role.

However, the film may have looked a lot different, as director Rob Reiner revealed he intended to end the film on a sad note – until his own life changed that is.

The rom-com that became a classic

The famous restuarant scene
Billy Crystal starred alongside Meg Ryan in the 1989 classic romantic comedy, When Harry Met Sally. (Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures / Zayne / MovieStillsDB)

Written by Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally immediately became a cult classic. Directed by Rob Reiner, the romantic comedy follows the lives of Harry Burns and Sally Albright, who is played by Meg Ryan. Audiences watch as the two continuously run into each other in New York City over twelve years. The film ponders the question of whether men and women can be friends without sex complicating things, but never answers it.

At the box office, the movie grossed a total of $98.2 million in North America, an impressive amount considering its $16 million budget. A rare accomplishment for romantic comedies, When Harry Met Sally was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen in 1990. It did not win its category, but it did take home the BAFTA award for Best Screenplay that same year.

For his 75th, Crystal celebrated his iconic look

March 14, 2023 marked Crystal’s 75th birthday, and to celebrate, he gave fans a nostalgic throwback. In a tweet, Crystal posted two photos of himself side-by-side. One was an old photo of him as Harry Burns from the film, and the other was a more recent one of him. In both, Crystal can be seen crouching down, wearing blue jeans, white sneakers, and white cable-knit sweater. He captioned the tweet, “Thank you all.”

Crystal is well aware that his role in the 1989 classic is one of his most iconic, as he has referenced it in the past before. In 2019, while he made an appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden, Crystal reenacted the famous restaurant scene.

Other celebrities reacted to his post

Meg Ryan sitting across a table from Billy Crystal in a busy diner, a scene from "When Harry Met Sally."
Fans were excited and thrilled to see him in the nostalgic get-up. (Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures / murraymomo / MovieStillsDB)

As you can imagine, Crystal’s throwback to one of his most famous roles was met by a happy audience. Many of his fans responded to the tweet with their own versions of the iconic stance and outfit. Other celebrities joined in on the fun as well. Actor Ben Stiller responded to the tweet saying, “Lots of love and respect @BillyCrystal.”

Comedian Richard Lewis also reached out to comment, “Finally, you’re my age. You’re a blessed artist. I’m proud to have started our comedic journey together. I started reading your accomplishments 17 weeks ago and I’m just about halfway done. Far and away your greatest success is your wondrous family. Love from the Lewises.”

The official Merriam-Webster Dictionary account even reacted to Crystal’s post, commenting, “icon | noun | a person or thing widely admired especially for having great influence or significance in a particular sweater.”

Clearly, Crystal’s post reminded everyone of one of the most iconic film performances of his career… not that anyone really forgot.

What if Harry and Sally never got together?

Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan hugging.
The ending of the film could’ve looked a lot different. (Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures / lindsaylohanslastfan / MovieStillsDB)

While Crystal was honoring his most iconic film, director Rob Reiner recently revealed during an interview on Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace that the ending of the film was originally supposed to look a lot different than it did. In fact, it was intended to be quite the opposite! The film’s ending sees Harry professing his love for Sally at a New Year’s Eve party, and then the pair getting married three months later.

However, Reiner said that the film was going to have a “tearjerking ending” at first. It wasn’t until he found love in his own life that the story was rewritten. “I’d been married for ten years,” Reiner said. “I’d been single for ten years, and I couldn’t figure out how I was ever going to be with anybody. That gave birth to When Harry Met Sally. I hadn’t met anybody, so it was going to be the two of them seeing each other after years, talking, and then walking away from each other.”

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Reiner ended up meeting his wife, Michele Singer, during filming. He said that if it weren’t for meeting her, it is likely the film would’ve stuck with its original ending.

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!