Behind "I'll Have What She's Having"

I was driving home from work the other night and was listening to an interview with Billy Crystal on Fresh Air when I heard him tell a story about the famous orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally. It was right when I stopped the car to go into subway to pick up some dinner, so I just sat in my car and finished listening - which was cool cause there was a long line anyway, and it had gone down a bit by the time I went in.

So it went something like this. Apparently after the movie got the green light, stars Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, Director Rob Reiner, and writer Nora Ephron would hang out in an office in Hollywood and throw ideas around. Nora said there should be something in there about women faking orgasms, and Rob was all like, "What?! women fake orgasms? That's crazy! - They don't with me." That last part about women not faking with him made it into the movie, which is what Billy Crystal said to Meg Ryan to make her start her fake orgasm...(I think that's the way it went). Anyway Rob was just totally flabbergasted at this idea, but Meg was like, "yeah, I should fake an orgasm in the movie." Then Billy was like "Yeah, it should be someplace public....like in a diner...and then an old woman next to her should say, "I'll have what she's having," which also clearly made it into the movie.

Oh, other things I learned. The woman saying the line about having what she's having was Rob Reiner's mother. Meg was very nervous about doing the scene day of. Rob kept wanting it bigger, and eventually did one himself for her to mimic that included him beating on the table and stuff. Oh and Meg is wearing Billy's sweater in that scene because she didn't feel comfortable about the outfit she had on.

Nora Ephron - Writer When Harry Met Sally

Anyway, I thought the insight was worth a post. Nora Ephron was a woman, and she wrote this movie, and she thought it was important to point out that women fake orgasms and that men don't seem to know or care when it's happening. There's a lot of baggage there we could discuss about why women feel the need to fake orgasms and why men don't seem to notice, but that's for other times. For now, I just think it's a darn good start that this situation, that is so common among women, was put out into the world in such a big movie and in such a humorous way, and it happened because a woman was at the helm. I feel like more women telling stories means more fresh material, tons of new opportunities for humor and eventually more understanding and empathy about our unique experiences and issues. I mean, if it were another man instead of Nora Ephron working with the male (and fake orgasm oblivious) director Rob Reiner, then this classic humor scene would have never happened. For the sake of comedy and the greater human good  people, let's get more women writing and directing and producing big movies!

P.S. This movie was made back in 1989, and you'd think women would have come a long way in Hollywood, but they actually haven't come that far. We have a long way to go.

  • Women accounted for 15% of writers, 17% of executive producers, 20% of editors, 4% of cinematographers, and 25% of producers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2011. - Celluloid Ceiling 2012 Report
  • Women accounted for 9% of directors working on the top 250 films in 2012, an increase in 4 percentage points from 2011 but even with the percentage of women directors working in 1998. - Celluloid Ceiling 2012 Report

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