In the late ‘80s and ‘90s, Meg Ryan was Hollywood’s golden girl, charming audiences in back-to-back hit rom-coms like When Harry Met SallyYou’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle. But by the early 2000s, she says she was burnt out by work and fame, and she retreated from the spotlight. “I felt isolated,” she’s said. “I felt like I was behind a window looking at my life.”

After nearly two decades of being largely out of the public eye, the actress is back with What Happens Later, a romantic comedy costarring David Duchovny. (The film — in theaters November 3 — revolves around two long-ago exes who get snowed in at an airport.) 

“Meg enjoyed her time away from Hollywood and was happy to not have to deal with all the BS that comes with being famous,” an insider exclusively tells In Touch, noting that the 61-year-old mom of two (she shares Jack, 31, with ex-husband Dennis Quaid and adopted her daughter Daisy, now 19, in 2006) felt “compelled” to star in and direct What Happens Later from the start. “She’s very proud of this movie.”

Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid
(Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)

Farewell to Fame

A perfect storm of events led Meg to turn her back on Hollywood. She was blamed for the demise of her 10-year marriage to Dennis (they divorced in 2001) following her brief affair with her Proof of Life costar, Russell Crowe. “That was another big turning point in my evolution,” Meg has said, insisting that the story of her split from Dennis “never got told right” and that things were over between them before Russell came into the picture. “My marriage was broken —nobody else broke it up.”

In 2003, she branched out professionally, playing against type in the sexy thriller In the Cut, but her performance in the film was widely panned. Her next film, Against the Ropes, also bombed. “I think the feeling with Hollywood was mutual. I felt done when they felt done, probably,” she’s said. Still, she resented being put in a box. “Meg never understood why she was called ‘America’s Sweetheart,’” says the insider. “To her, it was a label that had nothing to do with who she really was.”

Fresh Start 

As soon as Jack graduated high school, she ditched Los Angeles for New York City and focused on raising Daisy. In 2011, she began a long on-and-off romance with rocker John Mellencamp, a fellow spotlight shunner. Despite a 2019 engagement, the two split for good the following year. “John had a lot of good qualities but he had a lot of bad ones, too,” says the insider. “Meg doesn’t regret their relationship and she doesn’t regret ending it. She tried to go the distance but in the end, it was too much work.” (As she said in 2019, “I sometimes think relationships are for aliens … Who does it?”)

Today she’s feeling more content than she has in ages. “I like the ‘famous’ I am now,” she’s said. “I walk into other people’s paparazzi photos, but I can also get a restaurant reservation.” As far as love, says the insider, “Meg has a good life with her kids and a film career that she’s proud of. She’s not opposed to finding it again — but she’s just fine with the way things are.”

Have a tip? Send it to us! Email In Touch at