12 Things You Didn’t Know About 'You’ve Got Mail'
Delia and Nora Ephron’s charming romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail is one of those films that would be nearly impossible to make today. In the movie, Meg Ryan plays a bookstore owner who is about to be driven out of business by a corporate chain owned by Tom Hanks’s character. While they spar in person, they have no idea they are online anonymous pen pals writing back and forth on this new thing called the world wide web.
While the technology is hilariously out-of-date, the story remains as sweet as ever. There’s the book world version of David vs Goliath story, the Ephron sisters’ witty dialogue, charming characters, and a blush-worthy romance between two like-minded folks who are too stubborn to see it in real life. It’s a delightful film that is worth a re-watch.
Here are 12 things you may not have known about You’ve Got Mail:
The film is based on a 1936 play
Back in 1936, Hungarian playwright wrote a play called, Parfumerie, which is all about two bickering co-workers who don’t realize they are each-other’s pen pals.
The name of Meg Ryan’s bookstore is a sly homage
László’s play was so popular that well before Nora Ephron came around, it had been turned into a film twice before. Once as the musical In the Good Old Summertime starring Judy Garland and again by Ernst Lubitsch in his film, The Shop Around the Corner starring James Stewart. It’s that film that lent its name to the bookstore. There are other references, too, according to IMDB, including a copy of Scarecrow of Oz on Kathleen's bed when Joe visits her place and "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" playing in the closing scene.
There’s one more homage, too
When Kathleen is decorating the Christmas tree in her shop, she hangs a ruby slipper ornament on it. In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy Gale was played by Judy Garland, who also played the main character in In the Good Old Summertime, which like You've Got Mail was based on László’s play.
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Meg Ryan took a job at a real bookstore to prepare for the role
Nora Ephron really strived for authenticity, so before she started filming You’ve Got Mail, she asked Meg Ryan and Heather Burns, who played Ryan's employee Christina, to spend a week working at real bookstore. That’s how Ryan, a bona fide movie star, came to spend a week behind the cash register at Books of Wonder, a children's bookstore in Manhattan. While Ryan has moved on, Books of Wonder is still open.
The Shop Around the Corner employees hung out off-screen
To make sure the co-workers had real on-screen chemistry—the kind that only comes from spending hours together every day—Ephron encouraged the stars who played Shop Around the Corner employees to hang out off-screen, too. To make it even more authentic, actress Heather Burns told Huffington Post that the Shop Around the Corner employees weren’t allowed to pal around with the actors who worked at Fox Books.
Fox Books was too realistic
When the production crew created the Fox Books store, the fake bookstore looked so realistic that book-loving passersby kept asking them when the store was going to open.
Meg Ryan didn’t have a computer when she took the role
Despite the fact that You’ve Got Mail is all about the early internet, Ryan didn’t even own a computer when she got the job. “I got my first computer when I did that movie,” Ryan told Vanity Fair. “I think that the company gave us a computer.”
The actors were encouraged to improvise
When Joe was carrying balloons and a goldfish and accidentally slammed the balloons into the door, Hanks came up with the line, “Good thing it wasn't the fish.” They also improvised in the scene where the bookstore employees talked about the brave new world of online dating.
Joe Fox and Tom Hanks have at least one thing in common
In the film, Hanks’s character Joe Fox is obsessed with The Godfather and frequently quotes from the film (occasionally incorrectly). According to IMDB, Tom Hanks is a real-life Godfather aficionado and often quotes from the film, too.
There are some familiar faces in the crowds—and one absent one
There’s a very young Chris Messina (The Mindy Project) playing a Fox Books salesman who gets an education about Noel Streatfield’s Shoes series by Ryan’s character. Grey’s Anatomy star Sara Ramirez made her on-screen debut as a grocery store cashier. Dave Chappelle, Dabney Coleman, Parker Posey, and Steve Zahn were all in the film, too, but one person you won’t see is Monty Python star Michael Palin. Palin spent a week playing author William Spungen, a friend of Kathleen's, however, the scenes didn't really fit in with the rest of the movie and the character was cut entirely. It’s not a big loss, though, because according to Palin, the character was a villain with "no redeeming moral virtues."
Barnes & Noble turned down the chance to star in the film
Producers originally asked Barnes & Noble if they could turn one of their stores into a Fox Books location, but the store turned them down. These days, Barnes & Noble could probably use the publicity, since they’ve had to close many stores as Amazon ruined their business in much the same way as Fox Books hurt The Shop Around the Corner.
The You’ve Got Mail website is still up and running
Warner Bros keeps the film alive through its hilariously vintage website. It’s so ‘90s! Full of multiple fonts, bright colors, and your favorite film moments. You can even read Kathleen’s and Joe’s emails.