What Really Happened With Meg Ryan And Russell Crowe?

When it comes to rom-coms, it’s pretty much an undisputed fact that Meg Ryan reigns supreme. Her starring roles in films like When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, and Kate & Leopold, among many others, solidified her place in history as a rom-com queen (via IMDb). While her roles tended to be relatively wholesome and loveable, in real life, her persona was sometimes a little different.

In 2000, Ryan, who at the time was married to fellow actor Dennis Quaid, filmed Proof of Life alongside Hollywood star Russell Crowe. When scandalous photos of the pair getting cozy on set emerged, the tabloids went wild (via Entertainment Weekly). Ryan eventually divorced Quaid, and, after a brief affair with Crowe, moved on from him, too. At the time, the public was pretty scandalized by their favorite girl-next-door’s behavior. Many believe that her career never really recovered from the tabloid scandal. But what really happened between Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe? Here is the full story about their brief but very public love affair.

Meg Ryan met Russell Crowe on set

The drama all began on the set of Proof of Life, a 2000 thriller that starred Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe. The film starred Crowe as Terry, a rescuer of kidnapees, and Ryan as Alice, a woman who discovers her husband has been kidnapped. As Terry and Alice work together to save Alice’s husband, sparks begin to fly between them. It turns out the sparks were flying in real life too.

In July of 2000, the New York Post reported that Ryan and Crowe finally made their relationship public after they were photographed leaving a party held by Tom Cruise. As the publication noted, this came after several weeks of a rumored clandestine affair during which they had “been seen smooching and nuzzling in restaurants and clubs all over London” during the filming of Proof of Life. No wonder the tabloids were hooked! The news of Ryan’s involvement with Crowe came almost simultaneously with news that Ryan’s husband, Dennis Quaid, filed for divorce, as Entertainment Weekly reported at the time.

Meg Ryan's marriage to Dennis Quaid was already rocky at the time

Before Meg Ryan met Russell Crowe on set, she was married to actor Dennis Quaid. Apparently, the nine-year marriage was already pretty rocky. In an interview with InStyle (via Today), Ryan opened up about the state of her marriage at the time. “Dennis was not faithful to me for a long time,” she explained, “and that was very painful.” She went on to say that she only found out the full extent of his alleged infidelity after the divorce was finalized.

In 2000, Quaid was reportedly seen with women like model Mar Saura after the divorce was announced (via Cinema.com). But it turns out, infidelity was perhaps not the only problem in the marriage. In 2018, Quaid confessed to ET Canada that Ryan’s fame contributed to their marital troubles. “I have to admit it, I actually did feel like I disappeared,” he revealed. It’s no wonder that Russell Crowe was a welcome distraction from her failing marriage at the time.

Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid's divorce was highly publicized… but Russell Crowe wasn't to blame

While many people think that Meg Ryan’s relationship with Russell Crowe must have been the last straw for Dennis Quaid, it turns out, Crowe wasn’t really to blame. In an interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Ryan opened up about her public divorce. After revealing that the public nature of her divorce was extremely painful, she went on to discuss Crowe’s part in the divorce. “My marriage was a … very unhealthy marriage,” she clarified, adding, “I probably should have left it much earlier.” She then explained, “It was never about another man,” referring to Crowe. She summed it up by joking, “I think once the tabloids get a hold of three celebrity names you’re just really in trouble.” It sounds like the tabloids really did paint an alternate version of reality!

In an interview for InStyle, Ryan reflected on how Crowe had become embroiled in the story of her divorce. “I think he took a big hit,” she said (via Today). “But Russell didn’t break up the marriage. He was definitely there at the end, but it wasn’t his fault.” 

News of her romance with Russell Crowe was "all over the tabloids," but Meg Ryan ignored it

So, what was it really like for Meg Ryan to find herself plastered all over the tabloids alongside her new partner, Russell Crowe? Well, as Ryan explained to The Guardian, it was all very dramatic! She recalled one instance when she walked into a hotel lobby. “It was in One Aldwych Hotel,” she said. “This thing happened [her affair] and I was all over the tabloids and I walked through the lobby and the place stopped. People stopped talking and stared at me.” Instead of letting it get to her, Ryan apparently got into the elevator and “just started laughing.” Luckily, she found it possible to handle the public’s judgement “if you know yourself.”

She explained this feeling of letting go in more detail to Today. “It’s a real gift when you know you can’t ever really manage an image or a story and you stop caring. I felt the effect, like I was the bad guy or whatever the story was.” She added, “But I remember letting go of needing to correct anybody.” We have to say — we’re impressed that she managed to laugh off so much public scrutiny and attention!

Did Meg Ryan and Russell Crow's relationship move too fast?

For Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe seemed like the perfect tonic after her failed marriage with Dennis Quaid. As a friend told People at the time, “They seemed crazy about each other,” noting, “They had great talks, they’re-mailed each other a lot. He called her all the time.” As the publication went on to report, Ryan and Crowe were seen together all over the world, first in Santa Monica and then in Australia, where Crowe owned a sprawling property. According to Ryan’s friend, the new couple even pretended they were house-hunting. “It was sweet,” the friend said. “He’d point and say, ‘How about that one?'”

Another friend described Ryan as being “extremely infatuated” with Crowe. The actress’ friend Carrie Fisher even sympathized, saying, “He’s a tough thing to resist.” Apparently, Crowe felt the same way about Ryan. One friend suggested that Russell wanted to tie the knot and start a family with Ryan. Nevertheless, it seems that his eagerness may have been “too much too soon,” according to a friend, and the relationship didn’t last long.

Meg Ryan found the experience of being a "scarlet woman" to be "liberating"

Meg Ryan’s entire career was based on her squeaky clean image — she was often described as “America’s sweetheart” or a “girl next door.” For many fans, a scandalous affair with Russell Crowe didn’t seem to fit with this wholesome version of the actress. Suddenly, she was branded as a “scarlet woman,” as Ryan herself explained to W magazine(via E! News).

In another interview with InStyle (via The Sydney Morning Herald), Ryan looked back on her time as a star player in the tabloids. “My time as a scarlet woman was really interesting,” she confessed. “As painful as it was, it was also incredibly liberating.” As she went on to explain, shedding her perfect persona and becoming the “scarlet woman” meant that she could be “utterly free.” As she summed up, “I didn’t have to care about what people thought.” It sounds like for Ryan, the publicity came with both good and bad sides — at the very least, it gave her the freedom to be herself.

Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe didn't even talk to their friends about the relationship

While a few anonymous friends did speak to the press about the relationship between Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe at the time, it seems that the couple were extremely secretive about their relationship — to both the press and their own friends. Ryan’s friend and fellow actor Carrie Fisher told People that she hoped to get the lowdown on Crowe from Ryan “when she’s willing to talk.”

In fact, it wasn’t until long after the affair ended that either Ryan or Crowe spoke publicly about what had gone on between them. As the Daily Mail noted, Ryan finally broke her silence on the affair almost eight years after it happened. It’s easy to see why the couple wanted to keep things as quiet as possible. After all, as Ryan explained to The New York Times, “You can’t ever really manage an image or a story.” Sounds like the couple realized it would be impossible to ever get the real story out there anyway!

Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe opted out of press conferences for their film

Unfortunately for the producers of Proof of Life, Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe’s highly public affair became inextricably linked to the film itself. The tabloids had caught onto the new couple while they were filming, so the public was all too aware of the scandal associated with the film. As relationship expert Dr. Drew told Entertainment Weekly at the time, “I had no interest in this film until I heard about all of this.” He added, “People will want to see if they can pick up on her falling in love with him on screen.”

It seems that Ryan and Crowe knew that their romance was the talk of the town. In fact, they both decided to opt out of doing most of their interviews for the movie presumably as to avoid discussing what was now the biggest talking point — their affair. Unfortunately, this did not sit well with Taylor Hackford, the film’s director. As he explained to the Calgary Sun (via The Guardian), he was “deeply hurt” by their decision.

The director of Proof of Life blamed Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe's romance for the film's failure

Even though some people predicted that the scandalous, well-reported romance between Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe would boost profits for their film, Proof of Life, the opposite ended up happening. At the London premiere of the movie, director Taylor Hackford revealed that he blamed Ryan and Crowe for the flop. “It [publicity of the affair] had an indelible and very destructive effect on the release of the film in the US, because the real life story overpowered the film,” he said bluntly (via The Guardian). Yikes, sounds like he wished his stars had kept things professional!

It turns out, Crowe didn’t share his director’s opinions. Apparently, when he heard about the comment, he replied, “He said that? He’s a f***ing idiot. No seriously — what a knob.” Wow, it’s pretty clear that Ryan and Crowe did not leave things on a very positive note with Hackford!

The relationship reportedly only lasted a few months before Meg ended things

Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe’s entire relationship was highly publicized, so it came as no surprise that their break-up was also big news. While many rumors circulated that Crowe had decided to end things, Ryan has since claimed that it was she who did the heart-breaking. In a 2008 interview for InStyle (via People), Ryan explained that the relationship was simply too close on the heels of her marriage. “I was a mess. I hurt him too at the end,” she recalled. “I couldn’t be in another long relationship. It wasn’t the time for that. So I got out,” she went on.

At the time, friends of Ryan revealed to People that the press mix-up of who dumped who was difficult for Ryan. One friend explained, “Nobody corrected the misperception. He [Crowe] never came to her aid. It still works to humiliate her.” Even though Crowe never openly admitted to being the dumpee, he did confess in an interview that the affair had given him “a lot of light, mate.” He added, “I’m an expert at unrequited love.” It sounds like Crowe had been eager to make things work with Ryan.

Many people link Meg Ryan's affair with Russell Crowe to the demise of her career

You may have noticed that Meg Ryan no longer seems to boast the same super stardom that she did in the ’90s. And that’s even though People asserted that Ryan’s career would survive the Russell Crowe affair, writing, “One thing is certain: She won’t disappear.” However, since the tabloid story, her career has never really been the same. The scandal that surrounded her affair with Crowe appeared to have a detrimental effect on her good girl image. Apparently, producers started to look elsewhere for their rom-com leading ladies.

Of course, there are other reasons why Ryan’s career shifted. According to Ryan, it was a racy role that was the culprit. As she told The New York Times Magazine, her role in In The Cut lead to a “vicious” reaction from the public. By the sounds of things, the shift in Ryan’s career came from both the Crowe romance and her In the Cut gig. But one thing’s clear, for Ryan, being a little less famous isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As she told The New York Times, “I think the feeling with Hollywood was mutual. I felt done when they felt done, probably.”

Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe were never bitter about each other and even stayed friends

Even though Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe called it quits fairly early on in their relationship, it’s clear that the pair have never held onto any resentment. As Crowe told the Herald Sun shortly after his split from Ryan (via The Sun), “Meg is a beautiful and courageous woman. I grieve the loss of her companionship, but I haven’t lost her friendship.”

Crowe spoke about the failed relationship again in 2002 to ABC’s Primetime (via Irish Examiner). “She is a very important person to me,” he said. “I think she is very special, but I do not necessarily think we were 100% ready for what being with each other was going to bring.” As the actor went on to explain, the pair had started out as friends and had remained friends since breaking up. He even revealed that they’d spoke on the phone the night before for two hours. It’s clear that the relationship between Ryan and Crowe remained incredibly strong, despite the heartbreak.

Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe moved onto new relationships after splitting up

Even though Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan remained friends, they both went on to have new, more successful relationships with other people. Ryan began dating John Mellencamp on and off, and even became engaged to him for a short time. However, in 2019, Ryan reportedly ended things after eight years together. As a source told Us Weekly, “She’d had enough and ended [their engagement].”

As for Crowe, he went on to marry singer Danielle Spencer in 2003. However, the pair split in 2012, and finalized their divorce in 2017. In 2018, Crowe even held an infamous auction called “The Art of Divorce” (via The New York Times).

In 2020, rumors began to circulate about Ryan and Crowe rekindling their romance with one source claiming, as New Idea reported, “They had this white-hot relationship, but the timing was terrible.” The source added, “She’s given up on things working out with John and would love nothing more than to give things with Russell another try.” Of course, these rumors are yet to be confirmed. But one thing is certain — Ryan and Crowe did have a special connection at the time and will probably be friends for life.

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