Wednesday, October 15, 2008 10/15/08-Fake Orgasms

In today's excerpt--writer and director Rob Reiner (Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, This is Spinal Tap) films a scene for his movie When Harry Met Sally where Meg Ryan's character Sally loudly demonstrates a fake orgasm for her friend Harry, played by Billy Crystal. This scene demonstrates the often collaborative nature of movie-making:

"Perhaps the most famous restaurant scene in the movie--maybe in any movie--is when Harry and Sally go to lunch at Katz's Deli. [Screenwriter Nora] Ephron was the inadvertent source for the scene. The premise of the movie is that, as Harry puts it, 'Men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.' ...

"Much of Ephron's script was based on what she had learned from Reiner and producer Andrew Scheinman about how men think. Out of those conversations came such things as Harry explaining that after sex men began worrying about how long they have to hold their partner before they can leave (and whether thirty seconds is enough) while women want to be held all night. So they put it to Ephron to start offering up some of the things women think about and usually don't discuss with men, since if the film was going to work it had to have honesty from both sides. Ephron asked how men could be so selfish as to want to run right out the door after sex, and Reiner replied it wasn't really selfish. After all, the women had had a good time too. Ephron asked Reiner how he knew that.

" 'I told Rob he couldn't be sure about a woman's satisfaction because women fake orgasms,' she said.

"Reiner was surprised. He didn't believe anything like that had ever happened to him, or that this was something most women did. So he started asking the women in his office. More than half told him that, of course, at some time they had done just that. Reiner was shocked, but he realized that not only had Ephron told him the truth, but now they had to work that into the movie. Thus the genesis of the famous 'fake orgasm' scene.

"By the time the script was being read through by the cast--Reiner likes to give the actors plenty of rehearsal time--Ryan suggested that the scene would be even funnier if she demonstrated Sally's acting abilities in counterfeiting the throes of passion. This was immediately added in, but it was left to Billy Crystal to come up with the famous capper. He suggested that another patron of the restaurant who witnessed the scene tell her waiter, 'I'll have what she's having.' In passing out credit for what Reiner would call 'the funniest line in any movie I've ever done,' one can spot the fingerprints of the director, the screenwriter, and both the stars."

Daniel M. Kimmel, I'll Have What She's Having, Ivan R. Dee, Copyright 2008 by Daniel M. Kimmel 196-197.


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