By Miki Turner
Page 3 staff
LOS ANGELES -- A lot of B-words come to mind when one thinks of Meg Ryan. She's blonde, blue-eyed, bubbly and, in some pockets of the country, considered babe-ilicious. Boxing, however, isn't one of them.Yet Ryan, in an attempt to add more color to her already rather vibrant canvas, signed on to play bold and bawdy boxing manager Jackie Kallen in "Against the Ropes." This film, inspired by Kallen's own story, also stars Omar Epps, Tony Shalhoub, Tim Daly, Kerry Washington and Charles S. Dutton, who directs the films, too. While it might appear that Ryan (a.k.a America's Sweetheart) and Kallen are worlds apart in real life, the two looked quite chummy and at ease with each other when they sat side-by-side at a recent press junket at the Four Seasons Hotel. On more than one occasion Kallen actually finished Ryan's sentences. When you think about it, the two have one major thing in common -- they're both fighters. Kallen, the first female boxing manager, fought the boys who were trying to keep her out of the ring. Ryan, the star of such blockbusters as "Top Gun," "Sleepless in Seattle" and "When Harry Met Sally," has had to fight the "Hollywood suits" to keep from being typecast and then, more recently, the tabloids who had a field day when she left husband Dennis Quaid and took up with the boisterous bad boy Russell Crowe. Ryan, a single mother of one (Jack, 11), took time to chat with Page 3 about her new role, her career choices and that killer tennis game of hers. 1. So how did America's Sweetheart end up in a boxing movie? Meg Ryan: Go figure. I just got really interested. I met Jackie and got caught up in the script and I felt that the story was a crowd-pleaser. And, I loved "Rocky" and it's sort of like "Rocky" and "Working Girl" put together. Something really hit me when I saw this picture of Jackie, one of her boxers and this Yorkshire terrier together and I just went, "What is this story?" So the dog and the bruiser kind of sold you, eh? (Laughs) Yeah, that's it! The puppy and pugilist! 2. How much time did you actually spend with Jackie to prepare for the role? We spent quite a bit of time together -- almost a year. We went to fights, she showed me tapes and we just kind of hung out.
I lived across town from where we were shooting and sometimes in the morning, I'd take the cross-town bus. And I started to feel after a while like, man, people tell me a lot of stuff and you feel really weird about it. People felt very familiar with me. I started [saying] I'm just going to feel familiar with them right back. So it was the greatest cross-town bus experience, way back when. That's all I can think of right now. It's an extraordinarily weird thing to be known. 8. Have you ever had a guy try to pick you up using a line from one of your movies? (LAUGHS) I can't say no. I think I've had that happen. What movie? I think I've had that happen, I've gotta be honest, but now I can't remember exactly what [movie line] it was. Have you ever used a line from one of your movies? Have I ever tried to pick somebody up with a line from my movies? Like, "Take me to bed or lose me forever." I've gotta try that. I've never tried it. 9. What do you think of the whole America's Sweetheart moniker? Are you annoyed or amused by that? It's sweet. It's not the way I think of myself (laughs). Worse things have been said about people. I really love doing romantic comedies, I hope I always get to do them, but I want to do other things as well. 10. At this point in you career, what validates the work? Is it what you think about yourself or others? I'm so happy to say that it's what I think. But, a very close second to that is what the artists that I respect think. If they give me a compliment I'm completely sensitive to it and blown away. That happened actually with "In the Cut" and I felt, felt very good. I've really learned to disregard the opinions of the critics. 10a. Speaking of "In the Cut," you took some hits for that... Well, you know, that was one of the premiere experiences of my life, being around Jane Campion and working on that film. And I think it changed me so utterly as an artist and I'm so happy and proud to have had that experience. And, you know, the mixed response, what are you going to do? It was never a movie that was for everybody. No one ever made it to be a blockbuster. It's a personal movie made for like, $7 million on the streets of New York and great actors and a great director and really, really interesting character. So it was a fantastic experience. So just like Jackie, you kind of have to roll with the punches. That's right and come up fighting. Boom, boom.