Meg Ryan Makes Her Directorial Debut With ‘Ithaca’ by Uinterview

Meg Ryan is making her directorial debut with the coming-of-age drama Ithaca, based on William Saroyan’s 1943 novel The Human Comedy.

Meg Ryan On ‘Ithaca’

Ithaca is set during World War II in upstate New York, where 14-year-old Homer Macauley (Alex Neustaedter) works as a telegraph messenger while his older brother is off at war. In an effort to help provide for his widowed mother (Ryan), sister and brother, Homer delivers news of the war to his neighbors, giving them hope, or sometimes, the blow of knowing that a loved one has perished.

For Ryan, what attracted her to making Ithaca her directorial debut was the story’s simplicity and what drove the protagonist, Homer.

“It’s a simple story about complicated things and I love that. I love that in the movie, like To Kill A Mockingbird for instance, and I was moved by the protagonist,” Ryan told uInterview in an exclusive interview. “Our little Homer is our main character and what he wants, his driving desire is to keep paving the way for the people that he loves. And, as an adult, when you see a child who wants that, it’s such a heart opening thing, you can’t help but adore someone who wants something that impossible.”

Ryan is best known for being a leading lady in popular romantic comedies, from When Harry Met Sally to her beloved films with Tom Hanks, including Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. While many successful actors long harbor a goal of getting behind the camera to direct, Ryan’s desire to helm a picture is relatively new.

“At a certain point on a movie set you start to think about how you would do it, quietly, to yourself. You go ‘Hmm, maybe I would put the camera here,'” Ryan explained. “Now, I have got the bug. Before, I didn’t quite and now I’m just like everybody else who wants to find the material, and find the money; everybody out there tap dancing to get their next movie made.”

As a first-time director, Ryan not only had the chance to reunite with Hanks on the big screen, but she was also able to cast and direct her son, Jack Quaid. Incidentally, when Quaid came to the set to film his scenes for Ithaca, he was fresh off filming Martin Scorsese‘s short-lived HBO series Vinyl.

“We were all like, ‘Our set is so small compared to this Martin Scorsese thing!’ and he said to me — this is how I know I’m so lucky to have him as my son — he said to me, ‘Yeah, it’s the same Mom,'” Ryan shared. “No one else is gonna say that, that it’s the same as a Scorsese set.”

Ithaca is currently playing in select theaters.


Q: Have you always wanted to move from acting to directing? -

Not really, but at a certain point you go, ‘Gosh, it’d be fun to figure out the pictures.’ At a certain point on a movie set you start to think about how you would do it, quietly, to yourself. You go ‘Hmm, maybe I would put the camera here.’ And I’m a photographer, I take a lot of pictures and so that part was what I really look forward to. Now, I have got the bug. Before, I didn’t quite and now I’m just like everybody else who wants to find the material, and find the money; everybody out there tap dancing to get their next movie made.

Q: What attracted you to directing ‘Ithaca’? -

I thought I could find the visual equivalent to the fact that it’s a simple story and given the parameters — we shot in 23 days, we didn’t have a lot of money – it needed to be told simply. In very simplified elements. But, it’s a simple story about complicated things and I love that. I love that in the movie, like To Kill A Mockingbird for instance, and I was moved by the protagonist. Our little Homer is our main character and what he wants, his driving desire is to keep paving the way for the people that he loves. And, as an adult, when you see a child who wants that, it’s such a heart opening thing, you can’t help but adore someone who wants something that impossible. I just hooked into his little character and the simplicity of the story.

Q: What were the challenges of being a first time director? -

The whole thing was challenging but fun. I think that the biggest delight of it really was the fact that I got to finally understand in an intimate way what the process of so many different kinds of artists on a movie set, what they’re all doing. Every actor works differently, the production designer was...I love being involved with making pictures, I loved the DP talking about light and finding shots and talking about music and the soundscape of the movie. All of that takes so much. These are real artists who are involved with all those aspects and I’ve never been involved with them before as just the actor.

Q: What was it like directing your son? -

My son’s in the film but he’s not a lead in the film, he has a small part. What was thrilling was that he was working with Martin Scorsese on the HBO show Vinyl and he kind of came down to Virginia right after he did the pilot for that show, so we were all like, ‘Our set is so small compared to this Martin Scorsese thing!’ and he said to me — this is how I know I’m so lucky to have him as my son — he said to me ‘Yeah, it’s the same Mom.’ No one else is gonna say that, that it’s the same as a Scorsese set.