A backstage look at the making of Nora Ephron’s revered trilogy–When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, and Sleepless in Seattle–which brought romantic comedies back to the fore, and an intimate portrait of the beloved writer/director who inspired a generation of Hollywood women, from Mindy Kaling to Lena Dunham.
In I’ll Have What She’s Having entertainment journalist Erin Carlson tells the story of the real Nora Ephron and how she reinvented the romcom through her trio of instant classics. With a cast of famous faces including Reiner, Hanks, Ryan, and Crystal, Carlson takes readers on a rollicking, revelatory trip to Ephron’s New York City, where reality took a backseat to romance and Ephron–who always knew what she wanted and how she wanted it–ruled the set with an attention to detail that made her actors feel safe but sometimes exasperated crew members.
Along the way, Carlson examines how Ephron explored in the cinema answers to the questions that plagued her own romantic life and how she regained faith in love after one broken engagement and two failed marriages. Carlson also explores countless other questions Ephron’s fans have wondered about: What sparked Reiner to snap out of his bachelor blues during the making of When Harry Met Sally? Why was Ryan, a gifted comedian trapped in the body of a fairytale princess, not the first choice for the role? After she and Hanks each separatel balked at playing Mail’s Kathleen Kelly and Sleepless‘ Sam Baldwin, what changed their minds? And perhaps most importantly: What was Dave Chappelle doing … in a turtleneck? An intimate portrait of a one of America’s most iconic filmmakers and a look behind the scenes of her crowning achievements, I’ll Have What She’s Having is a vivid account of the days and nights when Ephron, along with assorted cynical collaborators, learned to show her heart on the screen.
If you love When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, or all three, then this book is a must-read! I’ll Have What She’s Having takes you behind the scenes at all three movies, sharing how they each came to be, including the origins of some of our favorite lines and scenes. (When Harry Met Sally originally was supposed to have a different ending. Can you imagine the injustice?)
Light and fun, gossipy and occasionally a bit rambly and slightly repetitive (the addition of a nude marble statue at Nora’s New York apartment building comes up twice, or example–why?) this was a whole lot of fun to read for a fan of rom-coms as well as movies in the nineties in general. A bit more time was spent on WHMS than the others, though this only felt right since it was the first (and the one I can recite the most lines from–though SIS is a darn close second; obviously I need to spend more screen time with YGM). Where the plot ideas originated from and how they developed over time, how Rob Reiner really felt about his mother reciting one of the most famous lines ever in movies, and whether or not Jonah, Sam, and Annie really met on top of the Empire State Building (they didn’t–it was a set created on a naval base on the other side of the country)–all this and more is revealed in this book, and darned if it doesn’t all make you want to watch and re-watch all three films (and maybe a few others of Nora’s) right now.
And then maybe re-read the book…or at least a few parts of it…
Rating: 4 stars / A-
I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.
Erin Carlson is a journalist who has covered the entertainment industry for 13 years. She worked as a staff editor and writer at the Hollywood Reporter and established herself early on in her career as a reporter covering arts and entertainment at the Associated Press in New York City. She has written for Glamour, Fortune, Vanity Fair, and the Daily Beast. She lives in San Francisco.