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Ross Malinger: The Life of Child Star Who Played Tom Hanks' Son Jonah in 'Sleepless in Seattle'

Andile Mthimkhulu
Jul 21, 2022
07:20 A.M.
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Ross Malinger is an actor well-known for his role in the classic romantic comedy "Sleepless in Seattle." Viewers still love this romcom despite being released almost 30 years ago, but what happened to the child star since then?

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The cast of the 1993 Nora Ephron film "Sleepless in Seattle" is one of the reasons it became a beloved classic.

This movie, which has a captivating plot, has a star-studded cast that includes names such as Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Meg Ryan, and Ross Malinger.

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Ross Malinger was Tom's son Jonah in the classic, and the child star's sweet role is partly what made "Sleepless in Seattle" age so well.

WHO IS ROSS MALINGER?

Ross Malinger was born on July 7, 1984, in Redwood City, California. He has two siblings, Tyler Cole Malinger and Ashley Malinger, and their parents are Brian and Laura.

Ross is not the only one in his family destined to be in the entertainment industry. In fact, his whole family was connected to the world of cinema.

Portrait of actor Ross Malinger (as Michael DeRuzza) in the CBS television sitcom, GOOD AVICE. Premiere broadcast April 2, 1993. | Source: Getty Images

Portrait of actor Ross Malinger (as Michael DeRuzza) in the CBS television sitcom, GOOD AVICE. Premiere broadcast April 2, 1993. | Source: Getty Images

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The actor's father, Brian, worked as a sales representative and a film producer. Ross's mother, Laura, was also a film producer, and his siblings were also actors.

The 38-year-old may popularly be known for his role in "Sleepless in Seattle," however, he landed other parts before that made him world famous. Ross's first screen role was in an episode of "Beverly Hills, 90210" in 1990 as a rowdy kid called Elliot Brody.

He appeared in several sitcoms, including "The Boss," 1991 films "Eve of Destruction" and "Late Dinner," as well as "In Sickness and in Health" in 1992.

Ross Malinger on "Maybe This Time" on February 10, 1996. | Source: Getty Images

Ross Malinger on "Maybe This Time" on February 10, 1996. | Source: Getty Images

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In Nora Ephron's film "Sleepless in Seattle," Ross, who was Tom Hanks's son Jonah, plays a matchmaker trying to find his dad a serious relationship after his mother dies of cancer.

When the film premiered in 1993, Ross was about to turn nine years old, and the movie's massive success was impressive for such a young actor. The film went on to rake in over $200 million in profit at the box office.

WHAT HAPPENED TO ROSS MALINGER AFTER "SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE?"

After his role that made him a household name in "Sleepless in Seattle," Ross went on to feature in other films such as "Sudden Death" in 1995 alongside Jean Claude Van Damme and "Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher" in 1996.

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Ross Malinger as Doug Naughton Jr. on "Susan's Minor Complication" Episode 5 aired October 20, 1997. | Source: Getty Images

Ross Malinger as Doug Naughton Jr. on "Susan's Minor Complication" Episode 5 aired October 20, 1997. | Source: Getty Images

The actor went on to appear in cameos in various sitcoms in the 90s, but Ross retired from acting after his role in CBS's "Without A Trace" in 2006.

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After he quit acting, Ross went into the world of business, like his father, and has previously created productions of classic Porsches on more recent VW chassis for Automotive Legends in Malibu.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Ross has an associate's degree in sales, distribution, and marketing operations and worked at Keyes Automotive Group as a Sales Manager.

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In 2019, TMZ reported that Ross was getting divorced. His wife Kelsey filed for divorce after the couple was married for nearly eight years.

Kelsey reportedly asked for spousal support and to restore her name to Kelsey Willemsen. In the divorce papers, Ross's wife also requested that the judge decides who will get the couple's dogs, Lucy and Gia. Ross and Kelsey didn't have any children together.

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ANOTHER CHILD STAR WAS INITIALLY CAST AS JONAH. WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM?

Actor Nathan Watt initially snagged the role of Jonah in "Sleepless in Seattle." The 38-year-old, born on October 18, 1983, in Phoenix, Arizona, featured in other roles in his acting career.

Nathan is known for appearing in "David Rules" in 1991, "Harts of the West" in 1993, and "Chicago Hope" in 1994. The young actor was also nominated for a Young Artist Award for his performance in a drama series.

Nathan was Nora Ephron's first choice for the role of Jonah in the hit comedy film; however, Tom Hanks was insufferable to Nathan on set. The lead actor Hanks was said to be difficult during filming.

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Tom reportedly admitted to being cranky on the set of "Sleepless in Seattle" and questioned why his co-star Nathan had "so many good lines." Tom is also said to have been annoyed by Nathan repeating dialogue off-camera while Tom was filming a scene.

It led to Nathan being fired and replaced by the young Ross Malinger -- despite the director Ephron not being fond of him.

Ross Malinger seems to have been the perfect replacement for Nathan, especially with the movie being one of the most memorable in Hollywood and catapulting the little actor into fame.

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