20 Warm And Romantic Facts About Sleepless In Seattle

We all love snuggling up and watching a good romantic film with our loved ones, and Sleepless in Seattle tugs at our heart-strings so much that we can’t help but watch it again every single time it pops up on TV.

Asking us to think about whether ‘the one’ was someone that we’ve never met or even seen, Sleepless in Seattle was released in 1993 and became a massive worldwide hit, making $225 million worldwide.

Below are 20 warm and romantic facts about Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s timeless romance, that we really hope will give you a lovely tingly feeling.


20. Tom Hanks initially turned the film down

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Despite being absolutely perfect for the role, Tom Hanks initially turned down the opportunity to star in Sleepless in Seattle.

The actor – who was aged 37, and still best known for light-hearted comedy at the time – didn’t believe that he was the right person to play Sam Baldwin.

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Reportedly Hanks had difficulty making a connection with the character as written in the original script.

However, the film’s director and co-writer Nora Ephron later re-wrote the script, taking on board the actor’s concerns and revising the character of Sam accordingly.

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The result was a character that was more serious than Hanks had played in his previous films, which convinced him to sign on the dotted line.

19. Meg Ryan’s role was turned down by Julia Roberts, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jodie Foster

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In the wake of 1990’s Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts was the queen of the rom-com – so it’s small wonder she was the first actress approached for Sleepless in Seattle.

However, Roberts says that when she was offered the role of Annie Reed, she “couldn’t do it.” (There may have been a scheduling clash, as 1993 saw Roberts star in The Pelican Brief.)

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The filmmakers then went to just about every big name actress in Hollywood at the time, only to keep getting the same answer.

Michelle Pfeiffer, Jodie Foster, Kim Basinger and Jennifer Jason Leigh were all asked to play Annie, but all passed on the part.

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Finally, Meg Ryan – already a celebrated rom-com figure thanks to 1989’s When Harry Met Sally… – agreed to take the role.

18. Tom Hanks’ wife plays his sister in the film

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Rita Wilson landed a supporting role in Sleepless in Seattle as Suzy, the sister of Tom Hanks’ Sam, despite the fact that she and Hanks were in fact husband and wife.

The couple wed in 1988, and remain married to this day (yes, believe it or not some celebrity marriages do last).

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Wilson had originally auditioned for the part of Becky, but when Rosie O’Donnell was cast in that role, Wilson was offered Suzy instead.

In fact, had casting on Sleepless in Seattle taking a slightly different route, the film could have been even more of a family affair.

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Actor Dennis Quaid, who was at the time married to Meg Ryan, was also in contention for the role of Sam early on.

17. They weren’t actually on top of the Empire State Building at the film’s climax

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The memorable climax of Sleepless in Seattle takes place not in the city of the title, but New York.

The big romantic ending comes where most rom-coms would begin: with the protagonists meeting face to face, at the top of the Empire State Building.

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Of course, such is the nature of the movie business that the scene in question wasn’t actually shot at the iconic location.

The scene was in fact shot in a far less glamorous location, in Seattle itself.

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A recreation of the Empire State Building’s roof was built inside a Seattle airline hanger.

16. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan only share two minutes of screen time

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Sleepless in Seattle holds a rare distinction in the rom-com genre, in that the star-crossed lovers are apart for almost the duration of the film.

For much of the running time, the story places the characters at opposite ends of the country, with Sam in Seattle and Annie in Baltimore.

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In fact, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are only on screen together for two minutes of the film’s one-and-three-quarter-hour run-time.

Still, the pair have shared a lot more screen time overall, as Sleepless in Seattle represented the second of four times Hanks and Ryan have appeared in the same film.

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Their first collaboration, 1990’s Joe Versus the Volcano, saw Ryan play three roles opposite Hanks; they’ve since co-starred in 1998’s You’ve Got Mail, and 2015’s Ithica, which was also directed by Ryan.

15. It wasn’t supposed to be a comedy

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While it is a beloved romantic comedy, Sleepless in Seattle has a tragic core, given that it centres in part on a widower and his son.

It may not be too surprising, then, that in its earliest form Sleepless in Seattle was not a comedy at all.

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The first draft of the Sleepless in Seattle script came from screenwriter Jeff Arch, who had written it as a completely straight romantic drama.

This script was then revised further by David S. Ward, before Nora Ephron was hired to do a third rewrite.

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It was only when Ephron came on board the film that the comedy elements were really brought to the forefront.

14. Nora Ephron cameos as one of the radio callers

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While Nora Ephron was already well established as a screenwriter by 1993, Sleepless in Seattle was only her second film as director.

Ephron’s previous writing credits included the Meryl Streep movie Silkwood, and the 1989 rom-com smash When Harry Met Sally…

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The director also takes a small acting role in Sleepless in Seattle, without taking a screen credit.

Ephron is Disappointed in Denver, another caller to the talk radio show on which Annie hears Sam call in under the alias Sleepless in Seattle.

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Ephron’s only official acting credits are bit parts in two Woody Allen films: 1989’s Crimes and Misdemeanours and 1992’s Husbands and Wives.

13. The guy who played Halloween’s Michael Myers was attached to direct the film before Ephron

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Early in development, Sleepless in Seattle came close to getting off the ground with a very different team on both sides of the camera.

Initially, when Dennis Quaid was in the running to play Sam, Nick Castle was poised to direct.

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Castle’s previous directing credits included The Last Starfighter and The Boy Who Could Fly – although he’s perhaps best remembered for playing Michael Myers in 1978’s Halloween.

However, when Nora Ephron was brought on board – initially just to rewrite the script – Castle didn’t like her new approach, and bailed to instead direct 1993’s Dennis the Menace.

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After Castle left, Sleepless in Seattle was briefly set to be directed by Pretty Woman’s Garry Marshall – when Julia Roberts was being courted to play Annie.

12. When Harry Met Sally…’s director appears as Jay

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One memorable scene in Sleepless in Seattle – the tiramisu joke – features Hanks and Rob Reiner.

Like Ephron, Reiner is also rom-com royalty, as the director of 1989’s When Harry Met Sally…

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Reiner was one of the most acclaimed directors of the 80s and 90s, with such diverse hits as This is Spinal Tap, Stand by Me, The Princess Bride, A Few Good Men and Misery.

He has also enjoyed a long acting career dating back to the 60s, with over 74 credits on his CV.

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Bonus trivia: the tiramisu scene confused audiences when Sleepless in Seattle came out, and studio TriStar Pictures had numerous phone calls from confused viewers asking what tiramisu actually was.

11. Jason Schwartzman auditioned for the role of Sam’s son

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For the key role of Sam’s precocious son Jonah, Norah Ephron and company cast child actor Ross Malinger.

However, another actor who later went on to considerable success was a contender for the part: Jason Schwartzman.

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Schwartzman, who would later find fame in 1998’s Rushmore, was aged 13 when he auditioned for Sleepless in Seattle.

Schwartzman would go on to reunite with Rushmore writer-director Wes Anderson on such films as The Darjeeling Limited and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

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Ross Malinger would work extensively throughout the 90s; his last credit was an episode of TV’s Without a Trace in 2006.

10. Parker Posey filmed a role, but was completely cut from the film

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Sleepless in Seattle should have been the debut film role of American actress Parker Posey.

Posey was aged 25 with two TV credits on her CV when she was cast in a small role as a woman who flirts with Tom Hanks in an elevator.

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Unfortunately for Posey, the scene in question was deleted from the cut that made it into cinemas.

Not that this hurt Posey’s career too much, as that same year she got her breakthrough role in acclaimed indie comedy Dazed and Confused.

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The actress would also reunite with Hanks and Ryan on 1998’s You’ve Got Mail – and this time, her scenes didn’t get deleted.

9. Tom Hanks was recording Toy Story at the same time as filming the movie

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1993 was a pretty big year for Tom Hanks, as on top of having two huge hits in Sleepless in Seattle and Philadelphia, he worked on what would become another of his signature roles.

During his time off on Sleepless in Seattle, Hanks was jetting off to record his voice work for the then in-production animated film Toy Story.

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Due to the time-consuming nature of animation, the groundbreaking feature-length CGI film would not reach screens for another two years after Hanks’ work was completed.

The role of Woody proved to be a bigger part of Hanks’ legacy than anyone could have predicted.

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The actor went on to voice Woody again in the three Toy Story sequels, as well as several short films.

8. The Dirty Dozen scene was completely improvised

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Nora Ephron may have been one of the most revered writers to ever work in the rom-com genre, but she wasn’t too strict about keeping her actors on-script.

One memorable scene in Sleepless in Seattle was not penned by Ephron, nor co-writers Jeff Arch and David S. Ward, but was an ad-lib.

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The scene in question sees Tom Hanks’ Sam and Victor Garber’s Greg get faux-emotional when discussing the film The Dirty Dozen.

Hanks and Garber completely improvised this exchange, reportedly without rehearsing or even discussing it before cameras rolled.

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Garber’s other notable film roles include The First Wives’ Club, Titanic, Legally Blonde and Argo.

7. Hanks called Ephron’s depiction of a father-son relationship “horses**t”

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Tom Hanks had his doubts about signing on for Sleepless in Seattle largely because he didn’t feel the script painted an accurate picture of a father and son relationship.

The actor recalls telling the writer-director, “you’re a woman, you’re a mother, you’re basing this on your experience with your boys. I’m a man, my relationship with my boys is nothing like this.”

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A particular sticking point came when, as written in the script, Sam calls off a date because his son Jonah doesn’t like the woman.

Hanks told Ephron, “that is such horses**t. Let me get this straight, a man has not gotten laid in four years, and he’s got a shot to get laid this weekend, and he’s not going to go because his son doesn’t like the girl?”

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Ephron subsequently rewrote the scene so Sam is forced to leave his date because Jonah runs away and tries to get on a plane.

6. Originally Sam and Annie both lived in Chicago

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The action in Sleepless in Seattle flits back and forth between cities, primarily from Sam in Seattle to Annie in Baltimore.

However, the film begins with Sam deciding to leave Chicago for a new life after losing his wife, and choosing Seattle.

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Originally, the plan was that Annie also lived in Chicago at the same time, without either of them knowing.

This was intended to further suggest that destiny had brought the two of them together.

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The idea was cut from the film, however, with Nora Ephron having admitted, “that little idea of mine didn’t work.”

5. The front door Sam walks through in Seattle is the same one Annie walks through in Baltimore

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Director Ephron and her crew went to significant lengths to emphasise the link between Sam and Annie.

For instance, you may recall a sequence in which we see Ryan’s Annie walks into one door in Baltimore, cutting directly to Sam walking out of it in Seattle.

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If you’ve ever thought that those two doors look remarkably similar, we’re happy to confirm your eyes are not deceiving you.

It’s not simply that the ‘two doors’ look alike – they are in truth the exact same door, used in both scenes in Baltimore and Seattle.

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The filmmakers transported the door 3,000 miles between the two shooting locations, and installed it in the corresponding doorways.

4. Bill Pullman signed on to the film thinking it was about a love triangle

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Sleepless in Seattle plays heavily on the chemistry between Hanks and Ryan, despite the fact that they are apart for almost the entire movie.

However, we can scarcely forget that whilst she’s quietly falling in love with a stranger, Ryan’s Annie is in a long term relationship with Walter, played by Bill Pullman.

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Actor Bill Pullman has since claimed that he was misled about the size of his role as Annie’s boyfriend Walter.

Pullman says that the film was sold to him as a love triangle in which he would feature as much as Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, along the lines of The Philadelphia Story with Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and James Stewart.

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By the sounds of things, Pullman was a little disappointed things didn’t turn out this way: the actor told the LA Times, “I had specific ideas on how to make that (love triangle) happen. It just was never really integrated into the movie.”

3. Ephron had a personal connection with An Affair to Remember

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Sleepless in Seattle is in some respects a ‘meta’ romantic comedy, in that it plays on its characters’ own familiarity with existing romantic movies.

This is most pointed in Annie’s obsession with the 1957 movie An Affair to Remember, starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.

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Part of why Sleepless in Seattle displays such affection to An Affair to Remember is that it was a film close to director Nora Ephron’s heart.

Ephron explained, “I had seen that movie as a kid… I just lost it. There I was, a hopeless teenage girl awash in salt water, and we stood up to leave, and my mother introduces me to Cary Grant.”

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Stunned to meet the star immediately after watching him on screen, Ephron “blubbered that this was the greatest movie I’d ever seen.”

2. It was nominated for two Oscars and three Golden Globes

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As well as being a hit with audiences, Sleepless in Seattle got its share of recognition from the big awards shows too.

At the 1994 Academy Awards, the film was nominated for both Best Original Screenplay and Best Original Song, for A Wink and a Smile, performed by Harry Connick Jr.

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However, it lost out in the screenplay category to The Piano, and in the song category to Philadelphia (also a Tom Hanks movie), for which Bruce Springsteen’s Streets of Philadelphia took the award.

At the Golden Globes, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan were nominated but also lost out in the Best Actor and Actress in a Musical or Comedy categories, whilst the film also failed to pick up the award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.

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Not that Hanks had much reason to be sad, given that that same awards season he took both the Best Actor Oscar and the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture: Drama, for his work in Philadelphia.

1. It was adapted into a West End musical in 2010

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Sleepless in Seattle is one among a great many beloved Hollywood movies in recent years to have been adapted into a stage musical.

The film formed the basis of a musical called Sleepless, which went into development in 2009, with the intention of premiering the following year.

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However, the stage show ran into significant troubles behind the scenes, losing its original creative team and undergoing a complete overhaul.

Sleepless finally opened at the Pasadena Playhouse in California in 2013, where it was met with largely unkind reviews.

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An unrelated adaptation, Sleepless: a Musical Romance, will begin its debut theatrical run in London’s West End in March 2020, starring Michael Xavier and Kimberly Walsh.