Tom Hanks Turned Down When Harry Met Sally Because He Was Too “Happy” About His Divorce

“He could not understand that a person going through a divorce would have anything other than just like, ‘I’m so happy,’” Rita Wilson said

Tom Hanks When Harry Met Sally too happy about divorce
Tom Hanks, photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

    Tom Hanks has starred in some of the most celebrated films in American history, but his wife, Rita Wilson, has revealed that there’s one now-iconic role that he turned down: Harry, in the 1989 rom-com When Harry Met Sally. According to Wilson, Hanks said no to the role because he was too happy about getting divorced at the time.

    That’s right — according to a new interview with Wilson on iHeart Podcast’s Table for Two With Bruce Bozzi, Hanks was enjoying his divorce so much that he couldn’t imagine getting into character for the heartbreak-focused film.

    “[Hanks] turned it down because he was going through a divorce and he was very happy to be not married,” Wilson explained. “And so he could not understand that a person going through a divorce would have anything other than just like, ‘I’m so happy.’”


    The divorce was between Hanks and his first wife, Samantha Lewes. The two first married in 1978, but split by 1987. Hanks met Wilson a few years before that on the set for the 1985 film, Volunteers. In 1988, a year before When Harry Met Sally premiered, Hanks and Wilson married, evidently marking an end to his “I’m so happy to be divorced” arc.

    Beyond Hanks, Richard Dreyfuss, Michael Keaton, and Albert Brooks were offered the role of Harry, but all turned it down. Billy Crystal — who had just worked with director Rob Reiner on 1987’s The Princess Bride — ultimately took the part, starring opposite Meg Ryan.

    Sending the script to Hanks was no total waste though, as Wilson explained. “I loved the script, I read it when it came in, and I flipped out” she told Bozzi. Already a fan of the film’s writer, Nora Ephron, the screenplay augmented Wilson’s admiration for her. When the two met at a party not too long after, Wilson asked to audition for Ephron’s next project, Sleepless in Seattle — she ended up landing a role, and her husband Hanks starred in the film.


    So, who knows — if Hanks hadn’t had so much fun with his divorce, When Harry Met Sally could’ve created a full-on trilogy of celebrated rom-coms starring Hanks and Ryan. And hey, maybe there’s still a chance for that… Hanks is set to be digitally de-aged for Robert Zemeckis’ upcoming film, Here, and with that technology on the table, a de-aged When Harry Met Sally reboot could actually become a possibility.

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