Inside Meg Ryan's Complicated Relationship with Her Dad and Estranged Mom
The divorce of Meg Ryan’s parents set a series of events in motion that led Meg to split from her family despite her mother’s hope of reconciliation.
While the actress Meg Ryan became known as the romantic comedy Queen, her sweet public persona is said to be skin deep and a showcase of her acting abilities.
“I think her ‘cuteness’ sometimes blinds people to how genuinely gifted she is as a comic actress,” the director of “Sleepless in Seattle,” Nora Ephron told Vanity Fair in 1995. Meg’s co-star in the film, Tom Hanks added, “Meg is not perky, I always got the distinct impression that this woman is not to be messed around with.”
After a family argument about Dennis Quaid, whom Meg married in 1991, she cut ties her mother, Susan Jordan but remained on relative speaking terms with her father, Harry Hyra.
“I have a talking relationship with my daughter that I fostered for years, that I have worked hard to mend,” Harry told PEOPLE.
But according to Meg, their troubles long predated her marriage to Dennis Quaid. Raised a devout Catholic along with a brother and two sisters in Fairfield Connecticut, Meg’s parents decided to divorce in 1976.
Harry and Susan got married in their early twenties, but as time went on, Susan realized she needed more in her life. “Susan was talented and had been a housewife since we got married,” Harry told the publication. “She wanted more.”
And so Susan got into her Ford Pinto and left the children with Harry until she could find a job as an actress in New York.
“It was hard for her not to have her mother at home, in terms of proms and first dates and first kisses,” Meg’s friend, Tracy Parsons said. “She was very unhappy.”
However, Susan remained in her children’s lives and took a job as a casting director’s assistant to build contacts that could help Meg’s career.
“One of the main reasons I took that job was so I could meet all the agents and introduce them to Peggy(Meg’s family nickname). I tried out once for a part in a TV commercial to help pay for basic expenses that my job couldn’t cover,” she said.
When Meg graduated high school, her mother took her to the casting agents, which led to roles in commercials. Through Susan’s connections, Meg then got her first appearance in a feature film alongside Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen in “Rich and Famous.”
However, at the same time, Susan faced severe health issues that led to mastectomy in 1992, only highlighted her already strained relationship with Meg.
“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1979, every member of my family came to see me in the hospital after my mastectomy except for Peggy. She wouldn’t take one day off from college to come to see me. She didn’t even call. She said she just didn’t feel comfortable,” Susan said.
In 1979, Susan also took the children back to live with her, while Meg studied journalism at New York University. But then Meg met Dennis Quaid in 1990, and a confrontation about his drug use led to the family drifting further apart.
“But I think it was a very handy thing for her to do, to present herself as a savior of this troubled soul who was a drug addict. How would it have looked if it came out that I had noticed this first? She had to discredit me to preserve her image,” Susan said.
Meg felt that Susan abandoned her for a Hollywood life and their strife over the drug using Dennis led to Meg’s parents not getting invited to their wedding in 1991.
By this time, Meg refused contact with her parents and even instructed friends and other family members not to give Susan her contact details or address.
In April the following year, Meg gave birth to their son, Jack Henry and according to Susan, Dennis made their position clear. “He told me I would never be able to see my grandson,” Susan recalled.
But Meg and Dennis’ marriage ended nine years later, and she walked into Russell Crowe’s arms shortly after. Dennis and Meg got spotted getting “affectionate” during a flight to London after they spent more than a month filming the romantic drama “Proof of Life” together in Ecuador.
“He was leaning over her, kissing her on the neck and stroking her hair—and it went on that way the whole flight. They were definitely very affectionate and flirtatious. It was certainly more than you’d want your wife or girlfriend doing with another man,” a businessman who sat next to them told PEOPLE.
After Meg’s split from Dennis, Susan expressed her hopes for reconciliation and said, “If she called me now, I would tell her that I love her. It would give me peace to know that she is leading a happy life. I can’t blame Dennis Quaid, but I think it’s strange it all started with him. Now, I hope it’s not too much to pray that this separation ends with him, as well.”
During an interview with Independent in 2019, Dennis admitted that he still loved Meg. "Sure, I still love her," Dennis said. "I'm very fond of her, and we have a lot of fun. We spent 13 good years together. We had a kid together, and we shared so much: she made my life."
His marriage to Meg was his second. Dennis first married the actress PJ Soles while his divorce from his third wife Kimberly Buffington got finalized in 2018.
However, later that year, Meg got engaged to the musician, John Mellencamp, a wedding that Dennis did not get invited to.
Reflecting on why his marriage with Meg didn’t work out, Dennis shared during a tell-all interview, the reasons behind their marital downfall.