Meg Ryan Opens Up on Being Labeled ''America's Sweetheart'' and Quitting Acting

Actress talks to Gwyneth Paltrow at In Good Health event

By Meg Swertlow Jun 10, 2018 3:03 AMTags
Meg Ryan, Gwyneth Paltrow, In goop Health SummitMatt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for goop

After more than 25 years since they appeared on the silver screen together, Gwyneth Paltrow and Meg Ryan reunited on stage at a panel during the In Goop Health event in Los Angeles on Saturday—and things got personal during the revealing Q&A.

During the one-on-one chat, the 45-year-old Goop guru and the 56-year-old actress who was once dubbed "America's Sweetheart," talked about a wide range of intimate topics including motherhood, daughters and the #MeToo Movement.

During the chat, the two, who starred in the 1993 film Flesh and Bone together, realized it had been over 20 years since they'd last seen each other. 

Meg explained, "Gwyneth and I did a movie together when Jack my son was 3-months." The When Harry Met Sally star then rhetorically asked, "What was wrong with me going to work when he was 3-months-old?"

Broaching the topic of being "America's sweetheart," Gwyneth talked to Meg about being pigeon-holed by society.

"You’re either intelligent or sexual or maternal, and I really feel like we’re at a time where those borders are coming down, and it’s coming with a lot of cultural upheaval in a way. In a certain respect, everyone in the culture is very comfortable with you in one archetype, " said Gwyneth, who then asked, "What was that like for you?"

Meg Ryan Through the Years
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for goop

"For the most part, I had a lot of fun," admitted the actress, who was married to Dennis Quaid back in her heyday from 1991 to 2001. She continued, "I never wanted to be an actress. The whole idea of being a famous person...I felt like a witness to, I didn’t feel exactly in it, and I think that was a really good thing. I felt like a student of it in a way, or that I was watching it in an anthropological way."

"When you’re a famous person, there’s a certain degree of blankness that needs to happen so that people can project on you. Despite what you may think, people don’t really want to know all that much about you," the French Kiss star added. "They want to imagine the best or the worst. So when you’re caught in that, it really is interesting because you get reactions that have almost nothing to do with you and some that have everything to do with you, and you have to be this jiu-jitsu master to figure out what mirror you should actually be looking in."

The actress added, "Life is subtle, people are complex, and the world is obviously complex, and tabloid journalism and headlines, those are not. Tweets, those are not. When you get labeled anything like 'America’s Sweetheart,' I didn’t even know what that meant. Nora Ephron’s parents wrote scripts in old Hollywood and there was such a thing as America’s Sweetheart in the '40s and she decided to say that about me one day and I remember thinking, 'Is that good?'"

Paltrow remarked that it was a "confining" title. Meg, who was Hollywood's biggest star but has done less and less roles over the past decade, added, "It doesn't necessarily imply that you're smart or sexual or complicated or anything, it's a label. And what can a label do but guess at you?"

As for her "quitting" acting, Meg told Gwyneth that for a time she was being "very reactive instead of proactive." She also said that, "I didn't really aim to be an actor, I was a journalism major at school, and a curious person, and I wanted to go back out into the world and figure out who I was—am—in relationship to other things and other people and other environments."

The actress has appeared to find a partner in ex-boyfriend John Mellencamp, whom she has reunited with.

In addition to her son Jack Quaid, an actor who is now 26, Meg has been raising 13-year-old daughter Daisy Ryan.

During the panel, Meg also spoke about the upside and downside of being a single mom, "I know I'm really her reference, for better and worse, and I'm glad she has other influences. One thing that is nice is you don't get overruled."

The topic of the sea-change #MeToo Movement came up and as for her own #MeToo experience, Meg revealed in the Q&A that her success may have protected her from any type of serious sexual assault.

"I don’t have a big bad story, I’m lucky. I think success, which happened fairly early for me, is a real iron bubble," said the star. "And I was really lucky."