That’s what Meg Ryan’s daughter Daisy says she gets after watching a feel-good movie. “It’s the cutest thing,” the writer, director and actress, 61, tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. “That feeling at the end that just makes you feel your heart open.”
Ryan herself is no stranger to that sensation. Having starred in beloved films like When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, she cemented her status as the perennial queen of romantic comedies. She also found success in dramatic films such as When a Man Loves a Woman and Courage Under Fire.
But as her fame grew, so did her determination to step away from the spotlight. “I took a giant break because I felt like there’s just so many other parts of my experience as a human being I wanted to develop,” she says, including her role as mom to her two kids, Jack, 31, with ex-husband Dennis Quaid, and Daisy, 18, whom she adopted in 2006.
“It’s nice to think of it as a job and not a lifestyle. And that is a great way of navigating it for me,” she says.
Now — eight years after her last film, her 2015 directorial debut, Ithaca — Ryan is finally back on the big screen. She stars in, directed and cowrote the new rom-com What Happens Later, about ex-lovers snowed in together overnight at a regional airport. (The film received an interim agreement from SAG-AFTRA allowing publicity during the strike.)
“It came to me during lockdown,” she says. “The essence of it is these two people who are stuck together. I just love that idea that we’re held in a space, even if it feels conflicted, maybe for reasons that heal them.”
Meg Ryan Reveals Why She Took a ‘Giant Break’ from Hollywood