Nora Ephron died the other day, so here’s a scene, as written (so some of this doesn’t appear in the final film), from my personal favorite Ephron film, Sleepless In Seattle. What’s going on here is that there’s a guy named Sam (Tom Hanks) and his son named Jonah, and their wife and mother has died. They are deeply saddened by this, obviously, so they try to get a change of scenery by moving to Seattle. Problem is, Sam is still having a terribly rough time of it, so Jonah one night calls a radio talk show that focuses on people’s life problems.
And driving in her car, on the other side of the country, is Annie (Meg Ryan), who listens to this…and pretty much falls in love with Sam just from the voice in her speakers.
INT. CAR - NIGHT Annie driving. Presents on the front seat. She's singing "Sleigh Ride" and doing all the sound effects and clipclops and giddyups. After a moment, she realizes she doesn't know all the words and turns on the radio. DR. MARSHA'S FIELDSTONE'S VOICE Welcome back to "You and Your Emotions." I'm Dr. Marcia Fieldstone broadcasting across America from the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago where we would have a fantastic view of Santa Claus and his reindeer if there was a -- oops, never mind. Tonight we're talking about wishes and dreams. What's your wishes this Christmas Eve? Maybe the best present you can give yourself is a call to me. The number is -- ANNIE Give me a break. Annie changes the station. RADIO VOICE The subject of the evening's medical update is You and Your Spleen and our host -- She flips the dial back the other way. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) Our caller is from Seattle. Annie changes the station. RADIO VOICE Coming up, Jingle Bells backwards, sung by the New Jersey Cape Mayettes -- Annie twists the dial back the other way. We hear a YOUNG BOY's voice. BOY'S VOICE (V.O.) Hello, this is Jonah -- (there's a bleep as Jonah says his last name) Annie's hand lingers on the dial. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) No last names, Jonah. Hello there, you sound younger than our usual callers. How come you're up so late? JONAH (V.O.) It's not that late in Seattle. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) Got me there. What's your Christmas wish, Jonah? JONAH (V.O.) It's not for me. It's for my dad. I think he needs a new wife. Annie shakes her head. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) You don't like the one he was now? JONAH (V.O.) He doesn't have one now. That's the problem. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) Where's your mom? JONAH (V.O.) She died. Annie closes her eyes for a moment. ANNIE I don't believe this -- EXT. HIGHWAY - NIGHT As the car drives along. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) I'm sorry to hear that, Jonah. JONAH (V.O.) I've been pretty sad, but I think my dad is worse. INT. CAR - NIGHT DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) And you're worried about him. JONAH (V.O.) I'm worried about him, he's worried about me, I ride my bike to school, he follows in the car, like I'm not supposed to know he's there. Now it's Christmas, and you know what happens to people at Christmas. ANNIE They lose their minds and call crackpot doctors on the radio -- DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) Have you talked to your dad about this? JONAH (V.O.) No. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) Why not? JONAH (V.O.) It's very hard for him to talk about this stuff. It's like it makes him sadder. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) You want me to talk to him? ANNIE Perfect. Sandbag the father. JONAH (V.O.) And you crazy? He thinks shows like this are dumb. If you didn't have an 800 number I could never get away with this -- DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) Is he home right now? JONAH (V.O.) Yeah. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) Well, I think I can help a little more if I talk to him directly. JONAH (V.O.) I don't know -- DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) I'm sure he won't be angry once he realizes how concerned you are about him. JONAH (V.O.) Okay, but if I get yelled at, I'm never gonna listen to this show again. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) Fair enough. INT. SAM'S HOUSEBOAT - NIGHT Jonah is on the telephone on the first floor of the houseboat he lives in with Sam. He's got the phone cord coming out of the small first-floor study, and he's standing near the kitchen end of a large living area looking out at the back deck, where his dad is sitting in a deck chair looking out at the sea. JONAH Dad -- SAM What is it? ON ANNIE AGAIN. JONAH (V.O.) There's somebody on the phone for you. (into phone) His name is Sam. ANNIE This is completely disgusting. INT. BALDWIN HOUSEBOAT - NIGHT Sam pokes his head in the back door. He looks much as he did eighteen months earlier, except that his hair is a little longer. He picks up the phone extension. SAM Hello. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) Hello, Sam, this is Dr. Marcia Fieldstone on Network America. Sam looks across the room to Jonah. SAM I'm probably not interested in whatever you're selling. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) I'm not selling anything. Your son called and asked for advice on how to find you a new wife. SAM (he really didn't get her name) Who is this? DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) (repeating herself) Dr. Marcia Fieldstone of Network America. SAM Jesus, are we on the air? Jonah, for God's sake -- JONAH Don't be mad at me, Dad. Sam can see Jonah. He's frightened. Sam immediately feels how upset Jonah is. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) He feels that since your wife's death you've been very unhappy. He's genuinely worried about you. Sam is looking at Jonah, who's rooted to the spot he's standing on. SAM (to Jonah) I'm not mad at you. Okay, I'm not mad at you. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) I think it's hard for him to talk to you about all this. Maybe we could talk and it would make him feel a little better. Sam hesitates. JONAH Please -- INT. ANNIE'S CAR - NIGHT ANNIE This is a grotesque violation of this man's personal life, but never mind -- SAM (V.O.) All righ... DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) Good. How long ago did your wife die? INT. HOUSEBOAT - NIGHT SAM It's been about a year and a half. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) Have you had any relationship since? SAM No. Sam is very uncomfortable about this -- DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) Why not? SAM Look, Doctor, I don't want to be rude, but -- DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) And I don't want to invade your privacy -- INT. CAR - NIGHT ANNIE Sure you do. SAM (V.O.) (overlapping) Sure you do -- Annie smiles. SAM Look, we had a tough time at first, but I think I'm holding my own as a dad, and Jonah and I will get along fine again as soon as I break his radio. Annie laughs. So does Mr. Fieldstone INT. HOUSEBOAT - NIGHT Jonah is smiling too. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) I have no doubt that you're a good dad. You can tell a lot from a person's voice. But something must be missing if Jonah feels that you're still under a cloud. JONAH Tell her how you don't sleep at night. SAM How do you know that? Sam and Jonah both talk into their extensions, literally talking to each other on the phone within their own house, but also ON THE AIR. JONAH I can hear you walking around sometimes. At first I thought it was a robber. Go ahead, tell her, Dad. SAM I don't think I have to now. Sam starts across the room towards Jonah, who starts toward him, both of them holding their phone receivers. On the wall in the dining area is a pine bench. SAM Look, it's almost Christmas -- (as the two of them sit down together on the bench) A kid needs a mother -- He puts an arm around Jonah. INT. CAR - NIGHT As Annie listens. She's softened considerably. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) Could it be that you need someone just as much as Jonah does? ANNIE Yes. Annie catches herself, covers her mouth in embarrassment. ANNIE I'm losing my mind. EXT. HIGHWAY - NIGHT As Annie makes a turn off the beltway into a rest stop. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) We've been talking to -- well, let's just call him Sleepless in Seattle, and we'll be right back after this break with listener response, your response, to the things we've been discussing. The number to call is... INT. BALDWIN HOUSE SAM What's she talking about? JONAH This is where other people get to call in and dump on what you said. We hear the beginning of a commercial. INT. TRUCK STOP RESTAURANT - NIGHT Annie walks in, anxious to break the spell of her radio reverie. She goes to the counter to order some coffee. There's a commercial on the radio. The counter WAITRESS LORETTA is talking to the customers -- who include a TRUCK DRIVER at a booth. HARRIET, a short-order-cook, is visible through an open window to the kitchen. LORETTA I'll bet he's tall, with a cute butt. HARRIET I'll bet he hasn't shaved in a week. I'll bet he stinks. LORETTA Shut up, Harriet. (to Annie) What'll it be? ANNIE Coffee, please. Black. To go. LORETTA Maybe I should hustle myself out to Seattle. Give him a little present for New Year's Eve. HARRIET You can go there if you want but don't open his refrigerator. They don't cover anything when they put it in the fridge. They just stick it in and leave it there till it walks out by itself. LORETTA Harriet, ever since you divorced your last husband, you've been no fun. I'm looking, and this guy pops my tarts. TRUCK DRIVER Come on, Loretta, you're going to have to jump-start this guy. His battery's dead. And look at me. Mister Ever-Ready. Every six minutes, another charge. LORETTA I'm looking for someone sensitive. ANNIE Come on, nobody wants a guy who's sensitive on the radio. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) Let's take a call before we get back to Sleepless. Knoxville, Tennessee, you're on. SWEET SOUTHERN VOICE Yes, I would just like to know where I could get this man's address? LORETTA (to the radio) Honey, get on line. EXT. DINER - NIGHT As Annie gets into her car. EXT. WASHINGTON, D.C. STREET - NIGHT Annie driving toward the house where Walter's parents live. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) Do you think there's somebody out there you could love as much as your wife? Maybe even more? SAM (V.O.) It's hard to imagine. And cut back and forth between the car and the houseboat. Sam and Jonah are still on the bench, but Jonah has fallen asleep in Sam's lap. Sam is stroking the boy's hair. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) What are you going to do, Sam? SAM I don't know. When I met my wife, it was so clear. I just knew. Annie is listening now. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) What was it that made you know? SAM I don't think I could really describe it. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) Why not? SAM And if I could describe it, it probably wouldn't be on a radio show. (he laughs to himself) But what the hell. It's not one specific thing. It's more of a feeling. (continued) Annie coasts to a stop outside a handsome mansion in Washington, D.C., the motor running. She's hooked now, she's not getting out of the car until she's heard it all. SAM You touch her for the first time, and suddenly... you're home. It's almost like... ANNIE Magic. SAM Magic. CLOSER ON ANNIE realizing she has just said this. Realizing that it must mean something but not knowing what. SHE'S CRYING. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) Well, it's time to wrap up, folks -- A FIGURE appears at the passenger side window, which Annie doesn't notice. She's wiping the tears away with her hand. DR. MARCIA FIELDSTONE (V.O.) We hope you'll call again soon.
This scene sets the emotional stage for the entire movie, and Meg Ryan has to carry her part of it with little interjections as she talks to the radio and as she listens silently, allowing her sadness to show, even though we know that she shouldn't really be sad about anything right now.
Thanks for the movies, Nora Ephron.