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Rob Reiner originally wrote a sad ending for ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ and we’re not having what he’s having

Reiner credits one special person in his life for the rom-com's eventual conclusion.
When Harry Met Sally. Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal, 1989
Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in "When Harry Met Sally." ©Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection
/ Source: TODAY

Harry Burns and Sally Albright almost had a different fate.

Rob Reiner, who directed “When Harry Met Sally,” discussed the beloved rom-com in a new episode of CNN's “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace” on Feb. 16.

Reiner revealed during the conversation that the “tear jerking” happy ending almost didn’t happen for Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan's characters.

“The original ending of the film that we had was that Harry and Sally didn’t get together,” he said. 

That original conclusion was personal to Reiner.

"I had been married for 10 years, I had been single for 10 years and I couldn’t figure out how I was ever going to be with anybody, and that gave birth to ‘When Harry Met Sally,’” he explained.

Reiner was previously married to the late Penny Marshall. The couple tied the knot in 1971, but ultimately split in 1981.

“I hadn’t met anybody, and so it was going to be the two of them seeing each other after years, talking, and then walking away from each other,” he told Wallace.

This alternate ending might come as a shock to fans. In the finale fans remember, Harry (Crystal) rushes to a New Year’s Eve party where he delivers an iconic speech professing his love to Sally (Ryan) with the line, “I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

Fittingly, that ending was born out of something that happened to Reiner during filming.

“I met my wife, Michele, who I’ve been married to now 35 years,” Reiner said, referring to actor Michele Singer Reiner, who he wed in 1989. “I met her while we were making the film, and I changed the ending.”

“When Harry Met Sally” remains a classic in the rom-com genre, with multiple memorable scenes, including Harry’s declaration of love and Sally's famous diner scene shot at Katz’s Delicatessen in New York.

When Harry Met Sally
Yes!Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Ryan recently brought up the moment while paying homage to her co-star, Crystal, an honoree at the 46th Kennedy Center Honors in December 2023. To start her speech, she referenced the scene where her character fakes an orgasm while sitting across from Crystal’s character. 

“This scene came really naturally to me, and I really have Billy to thank for that,” she said of the moment. “I’ve actually never been around anyone who made faking an orgasm easier. So, thank you, Billy.”

Ryan later attributed the success of the film to a few factors, including Reiner’s “brilliant direction,” a “perfect script” from the late Nora Ephron and “chemistry.”

“Chemistry is ... well, no one really knows what chemistry is, but Harry and Sally had it,” she explained. “And all I know is that acting with Billy was effortless, the characters just came alive and just meeting him, I don’t know how could you not love Billy Crystal.”