It’s almost the 30th anniversary of this legendary romantic comedy. And one of its stars just revealed that its most famous scene wasn’t in the script.
Katz’s Delicatessen, on the corner of Houston and Ludlow on New York’s Lower East Side, is famous for three things.
First, its pastrami on rye on sandwich, a salty, fatty, vinegar-y poem of a meal that the deli sells 6,800kg of every single week. Secondly, Katz’s catch phrase: “Send a salami to your boy in the army,” which they debuted during the Second World War. (They still send gift packages to American troops, even today.) And thirdly, When Harry Met Sally.
Ryan’s character Sally and Crystal’s character Harry were having those aforementioned pastrami sandwiches and discussing Harry’s recent string of one night stands. “Why are you getting so upset?” Harry declares. “This is not about you.”
“Yes it is,” Sally shoots back. “You are a human affront to all women and I am a woman.”
From there, the scene evolves in the most delicious way, with Sally telling Harry that some of these disposable women he’s been sleeping with might be faking orgasms. Harry doesn’t believe that women can do such a thing until Sally fakes one right then and there at the Katz’s deli table, before returning sanguinely to her sandwich.
“I’ll have what she’s having,” Estelle Reiner says, eyebrow cocked. End scene.
In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Crystal revealed that this moment between the two star-crossed friends wasn’t even in the original script. Two weeks before production on the movie began, Crystal recalled the film’s late writer Nora Ephron declaring that there was something missing from the movie.
“Harry’s now been screwing around,” Crystal recalled Ephron saying. “He’s in revenge mode, and he’s this cocky little stud. Maybe we do a scene about how women fake orgasms.”
“What are you talking about?” director Rob Reiner replied.
“Well, women fake orgasms Rob,” Ephron explained.
“Really? They never fake one with me,” he said.
The moment proved so funny that Ephron wrote it straight into the script, which was apt given that the Harry character was loosely based on Reiner himself. (At the time, the director of The Princess Bride and Stand By Me was reeling from the breakdown of his relationship with the late Penny Marshall. He met his current wife Michele Singer on the set of When Harry Met Sally.)
Crystal also revealed that it was Ryan’s idea to fake an orgasm in the scene, while he suggested that it had to be in a public place, such as a packed restaurant.
“Nora goes wild. And then we’re all laughing,” Crystal told The Hollywood Reporter. “Then I said, ‘And then we’ll cut to an older woman who will say, ‘I’ll have what she’s having.’ And that’s how it happened. That’s how the movie got real, because of Meg and I and Nora and Rob sitting around, talking about ‘How can we make it better?’”
Crystal also revealed that before When Harry Met Sally, movies didn’t really talk about orgasms.
“Let’s face it, in the history of movies, except for porn movies, no one ever used the word orgasm,” he said. “No one ever said that. Bogart never said ‘You know Louie, this was a great orgasm.’ Gable never said ‘Frankly, I don’t give a damn about your orgasm.’ No one ever said it. And so it was shocking when it was out there and it was such a provocative idea.”
During test screenings of the movie in Los Angeles back in 1989, audiences laughed so hard that they drowned out the dialogue.
“When she starts faking it, they go bezerk,” Crystal recalled. “You couldn’t hear any dialogue. They laughed through the next scene. The roar, it was gigantic. I realised that Rob and I were now holding hands. We were gripping each other because it was so momentous a laugh.”
Ah, When Harry Met Sally. They just don’t make ‘em like they used to.
Images: Rex Features, Getty