Rita Wilson Says Tom Hanks Declined 'When Harry Met Sally' Role For A Surprising Reason

Billy Crystal was ultimately cast in the 1989 romantic comedy, which also starred Meg Ryan.

Rita Wilson says her husband Tom Hanks turned down a lead role in 1989’s “When Harry Met Sally” due to the state of his own love life at the time.

During an appearance on Tuesday’s episode of iHeartPodcasts’ “Table for Two with Bruce Bozzi,” Wilson, a former HuffPost editor at large, mentioned that Hanks was offered the role of Harry Burns. Hanks passed on the part, though ― because, according to Wilson, his own feelings about divorce at the time were very different from the character’s.

“People probably don’t know this, but Tom was offered ‘When Harry Met Sally,’” Wilson said, adding that Hanks “turned it down because he was going through a divorce and he was very happy to be not married.”

“So he could not understand that a person going through a divorce would [feel] anything other than just, like, ‘I’m so happy,’” she continued with a laugh.

Hanks and his first wife, Samantha Lewes, divorced in 1987. Wilson and Hanks have been married since 1988. Lewes died in 2002.

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson on the red carpet at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival on May 23 in Cannes, France.
Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson on the red carpet at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival on May 23 in Cannes, France.
Lionel Hahn via Getty Images

Billy Crystal ultimately played Harry in the romantic comedy, which also starred Meg Ryan as Harry’s love interest Sally Albright. The movie is now regarded as a classic of the genre.

The movie’s director, Rob Reiner, has spoken before about other actors who were in the running to play Harry.

During an appearance on “The Howard Stern Show” in 2016, Reiner mentioned that both Hanks and Albert Brooks were among the actors he considered for the part. Reiner also said he was nervous to cast Crystal due to their close friendship.

“Now to be completely honest, and Billy knows this ... He was my best friend and I was nervous about doing this with my best [friend],” he said. “What if this doesn’t work? What is this gonna do?”

The director added that his fears were later put to rest and that Crystal nailed the role.

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