Q&A: Rob Reiner on ‘When Harry Met Sally’s’ 30th anniversary

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron’s classic relationship comedy “When Harry Met Sally...” is turning 30 this summer, and what better way to celebrate than with a splashy screening to kick off the 10th annual TCM Classic Film Festival ?

Reiner and stars Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan will join forces at the event Thursday evening in the heart of Hollywood as ticket-holders prepare for four days of classic film fun, with screenings, panels and parties.

Although many things have changed in Hollywood since “When Harry Met Sally...” came out in 1989, and Ephron and Carrie Fisher are among those involved who have died, it is incredible how its lines and truths have stood the test of time.

The Associated Press caught up with Reiner to talk about the film and the simple secret to making a good romantic comedy.

Remarks have been edited for clarity and brevity.


AP: Some of your beloved films have already turned 30 (“This Is Spinal Tap,” ’'The Princess Bride,” ’'Stand by Me”), so this isn’t a new landmark for you, but does it make you reflect at all?

REINER: It makes me old. That’s all it makes me.

AP: Is it surreal that it’s opening up the TCM Classic Film Festival?

REINER: It’s really cool. You make a film and you don’t know if it’s going to stand the test of time or people are going to still like it. Whenever you’ve done something that people still enjoy it’s a pretty cool thing.

AP: Why do you think this one still resonates?

REINER: All I can ever do is I look into myself and try to figure out, “How do I think as a man?” There are certain universal things that men experience and the fact that I was working with Nora Ephron, she brought the female perspective to the mix, and we made it a part of the creative process to say what actually happens between men and women. You know, it’s not about the cute meet or putting some obstacles between the lovers so that they get together, but what actually happens with men and women. That was really the motivation for me. Because I was married for 10 years and had been single for 10 years and I was making a mess of my dating life. I kept saying, how does this work? How do a man and woman get together? I started thinking about that and I talked to Nora and she liked the idea and we started working on it. I think people see some basic truths about men and women when they watch that movie.

AP: I think you just described why so many romantic comedies don’t work.

REINER: To me the best ones are the ones that are extensions of the filmmakers.

AP: It is interesting that none of your films have been remade. I’m sure people have tried.

REINER: They’ve asked me on this one, they say “why don’t you make a sequel? Where’re Harry and Sally now?” They’ve asked me that about “Spinal Tap,” about “Princess Bride” and things. But to me it’s like, I did that already. My mind is in a different place now so whatever I’m thinking about now I try to express.

AP: “When Harry Met Sally...” helped kick off a whole rom-com renaissance. Why do you think the form went out of style for a bit?

REINER: I don’t know why. To me the dance that happens between men and women is forever. That is the mating dance. That’s what we do. The studios are making a certain kind of film and basically they’re big event, franchise type pictures with lots of CGI and action and all that stuff. And they’re not really focused on human dramas or romantic comedies or courtroom dramas. The only people who were making these kinds of things would be independent filmmakers and it’s very tough to make an honest film about what happens. You could do it now. Right now if you were a young filmmaker and you wanted to make a romantic film, comedy, whatever, there’s a lot of gender fluidity and sexual fluidity and all of those elements would be part of it, it would seem to me, to somebody interested in wanting to do it. But you can’t get them made at studios. They don’t make those kinds of films. The only comedy, sort of romantic, they’re R-rated. They don’t make just relationship movies.

AP: Are you and Billy and Meg going to get together to catch up around the event?

REINER: We’re going to be at the screening. And Billy called me and was saying they’re going to give him the hands and feet at Grauman’s (now TCL) Chinese Theater the next day and he asked me to come and speak. My dad and I had that done a while ago and Billy came. So that’ll be nice.


Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr