A love story for the Festive Season, When Harry Met Sally is viewed by Stephanie Billen

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Faking It To The Top

When Stephanie Billen met Nora Ephron, scriptwriter on When Harry Met Sally, they chewed over lunch, faking orgasms in restaurants and the film.

As Nora Ephron sits down, several of the journalists at the table get up to leave. After all, having eyed up Meg Ryan, and talked to Billy Crystal and director Rob Reiner. most of them are running out of patience. alcohol and potential column inches. What they don‘t realise is that the confident New York screenwriter of When Harry Met Sally . . . is eager to embark on a spirited contradiction ofwhat everyone else has been saying. ‘Hullo, I hope you didn‘t believe anything he said’, she begins with a gesture towards Rob Reiner’s departing back.

To be fair, tape-recorder evidence would seem to suggest that the stars had been freely contradicting each other throughout this lunch. ‘It’s enormous in the States over $90m’, purrs Billy Crystal over the film’s success. ‘When we were making this, Rob was saying ifwe can do $30 top $35 on this I’ll be thrilled . . .’ Twenty minutes later Rob Reiner looks misty-eyed: ‘We were praying it would do 25. If it did 25 we would have been thrilled . . . then comes Nora. ‘Rob said how thrilled he would be if it made $30m and I said how thrilled I would be ifit was not a grotesque personal humiliation.’ Maybe it’s the confident ‘New Yoik’ accent, but she sounds the most convincing.

She clears up a few other points too. Like whose idea was the fake orgasm in the restaurant. Says Meg: ‘It was kind of all ours.’ Says Rob:

‘Meg said she could do a fake orgasm . . . And Nora? ‘It was Rob’s idea to do the orgasm.’ That they are not all clamouring to take the credit for what is the funniest scene in the film could be because the shooting of it proved so embarrassing. Picture Meg going through her lines the night before: ‘I was kinda charting it out. You know, A-H-H-H-H-H-O-H-H . . . .‘Then visualise the scene in rehearsal when 150 extras turned up to witness it. Then Rob Reiner showing her how to do it, and suddenly remembering his mother is sitting nearby (it is she who comes out with that memorable punchline uttered to the waiter: ‘I’ll have whatever she’s having.’) Happily Meg got over her last minute

crisis of nerves and was afterwards presented with a congratulatory ‘huge salami’ from the crew and sexy underwear from Nora.

The film would not have touched so many hearts however if it had been just a series of running gags. Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron worked together from different standpoints to achieve a fusion of ideas. ‘I think Rob was coming at this genuinely interested in the question of whether men and women can be friends. I came at it from the point ofview ofwhat it was like to be single, now, in a large metropolitan area.’ lnevitably it is the former question that has been on the lips ofevery journalist Nora has met. ‘. . . . As ifwe hadn’t made this 95 minute thing which basically said every single thing I had to say on the subject . . .’ As a concession, she adds: ‘which is that women think men and women can befriends and men think they can’t.’

Rob Reiner is adamant that they can’t, largely because of his own experience with a friend who became an acquaintance once their respective relationships got in the way. However, some of his blacker thoughts about the subject began to change while he was making the film. Initially he says he was unhappy about the film’s closing scenes. ‘I didn’t have anyone in my life, it was very depressing. . . And I felt this was a really


Hollywood, tarted up ending. It seemed ridiculous.’ An alternative finale implanted itself in his mind, that ofSalIy rejecting Harry at the party, then a flash-forward to their chance meeting in the street six months later with a voice over relating how they eventually got together. Then something happened to make him feel happier about the ending that commercialism would seem to dictate. He smiles: ‘In the course ofthe film I fell in love and married a friend of the cameraman’s wife.‘

Reiner, whose directing credits have included This is Spinal Tap, and Stand By Me, is cagey about the idea ofa When Harry Met Sally ll. ‘l’m not a big sequel guy: to me the film was a celebration of people meeting each other and falling in love . . . But you never know. The sequel would have to be their married lives.’

Billy Crystal is more enthusiastic. but Nora counters crisply: ‘If Billy would like to do a sequel, then Billy can write it . . .‘ Always one to have the last word she concludes: ‘1 would be very surprised ifthere would be a sequel to this movie.’

When Harry Met Sally opens at Glasgow Cannon The Forge and Odeon, Stratliclyde Odeon Ayr. UCI Clydebank and UCI East Kilbride on Tue 26, and at Glasgow Grosvenor on Fri 5.

The List 22 December 1989— 11 January 199013