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Julia Roberts Turned Down Meg Ryan’s ‘You’ve Got Mail’ Role Amid Rom-Com Streak, Says ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ Warrants a Sequel

Julia Roberts is an icon of the romantic-comedy genre, but there’s one famous rom-com the Oscar-winner happened to turn down: Nora Ephron’s 1998 classic “You’ve Got Mail.” Roberts revealed the scoop during a recent appearance on Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live.”

Ephron’s film memorably paired Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in the story of business rivals unaware they are falling in love with each other online. “You’ve Got Mail” marked the third Hanks-Ryan romantic comedy after “Joe Versus the Volcano” (1990) and “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993), the latter title also being directed by Ephron. Had Roberts taken the role, it would’ve extended her 1990s rom-com streak that already included hits like “Pretty Woman” (1990), “Notting Hill” (1999) and “My Best Friend’s Wedding” (1997).

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Asked by a fan to name some roles she has turned down in career, Roberts stressed that she does not regret any of her choices. She said any movie she has passed on in her career “maybe wouldn’t have been as great and wonderful” with her in it. These movies included “You’ve Got Mail” and Michael Mann’s 1992 drama “The Last of the Mohicans,” starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

“I can’t think of any else, but also there’s things that you don’t get like Meg Ryan was supposed to be in ‘Steel Magnolias,’ and she was still filming ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ so I got that part,” Roberts said, noting her full circle spiritual connection to Ryan. “Cate Blanchett was supposed to be in ‘Closer,’ but she got pregnant, so then I got that part. So I’ve lucked into some good stuff.”

Roberts’ role in 1989’s “Steel Magnolias” served as an early breakout a year before her star power exploded with 1990’s “Pretty Women.” Both films earned her Academy Award nominations.

Elsewhere during her “Watch What Happens Live” appearance, Roberts was asked if there is a film from her career that she thinks warrants a sequel.

“I think, maybe, ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding,’” Roberts said. “Because there’s so many people in it, and to see what they’re doing and how Kimmy and Michael’s marriage is going.”

Roberts dominated the rom-com genre in the 1990s. She told The New York Times last year that moviegoers didn’t appreciate the rom-com boom enough and all the hard work that went into it.

“We didn’t appreciate the bumper crop of romantic comedies that we had then,” Roberts said. “You don’t see all the effort and puppet strings because it’s fun and sweet and people are laughing and kissing and being mischievous.”

Roberts said of rom-coms, “This is a genre that I love to participate in and watch, and I think they are hard to get right. There is a really simple math to it, but how do you make it special? How do you keep people interested when you can kind of predict what is coming?”

Last year, Roberts returned to the rom-com genre starring opposite George Clooney in “Ticket to Paradise.” It was her first time headlining a rom-com in the lead role since 2001’s “America’s Sweethearts” (she had small roles in the ensemble rom-coms “Valentine’s Day” and “Mother’s Day,” plus turns in romance dramas like “Eat Pray Love” and romance crime movies such as “Duplicity”). Roberts revealed at the time that a lack of good scripts kept her away from the genre.

“People sometimes misconstrue the amount of time that’s gone by that I haven’t done a romantic comedy as my not wanting to do one,” Roberts said. “If I had read something that I thought was that ‘Notting Hill’ level of writing or ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ level of madcap fun, I would do it. They didn’t exist.”

When asked by if she stayed away from romantic comedies for 20 years because “there wasn’t a single good script, not one,” Roberts answered, “Yeah.”

Roberts can currently be seen in the Netflix apocalypse thriller “Leave the World Behind,” which is now streaming. Watch more from Roberts’ appearance on “Watch What Happens Live” in the video below.

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