20 Secrets From 'You've Got Mail' That Still Blow Our Minds

Samantha Sutton | Dec 18, 2018 Movies
20 Secrets From 'You've Got Mail' That Still Blow Our Minds

You've Got Mail photo
Warner Brothers

We half-hate, half-love celebrating all of these movie anniversaries. On one hand, it's the perfect excuse to revisit an old favorite that we still happen love and find out interesting facts about it that we never knew before. On the other hand, we end up being reminded of how much time has passed since its premiere. Case in point: You've Got Mail turned 20 on December 18, and to say we're shocked would be an understatement.

Sure, computers have come a long way since 1998 (does anyone even use AOL anymore?) as we're definitely not sitting around waiting to connect to the Internet via dial-up (thank goodness, that noise alone was annoying enough). But the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan rom-com still manages to give us the warm and fuzzies -- even if in real life, the story would be considered a serious case of catfishing. (Just saying.)

It turns out that a lot went into making You've Got Mail, which was directed by the late icon Nora Ephron. (Nora co-wrote the script with her sister Delia.) Looking back, we definitely did not catch all of those perfectly placed movie references -- both to classics and to other Nora Ephron films -- or realize that some of the time, the funniest lines were improvised. Many of the movie's actors went the extra mile to prepare for their role, with background story lines, such as that extra who played the florist, taken into careful consideration. 
We compiled 20 noteworthy tidbits about You've Got Mail that still manage to blow our minds. Some of them were likely noticeable to true fans and regular viewers, whereas the others are behind-the-scenes secrets that were revealed later on. It's all, however, pretty darn fascinating and is inspiring us to give You've Got Mail another watch in honor of its major milestone.
  • You've Got Mail Is *Not* an Original

    1

    The movie is actually inspired by the 1937 play Parfumerie, about two coworkers who are unknowingly pen pals.

  • The Bookstore's Name

    2

    Speaking of Parfumerie, the 1937 play inspired the 1940 film, The Shop Around the Corner, which happens to be the name of Kathleen Kelly's family-owned bookstore.
  • An Extra Story

    3

    Although a pregnant florist is seen at the beginning of the movie, a sign later hangs in her shop announcing "it's a Girl," showing how much time has passed.

  • The Preparation

    4

    In order for their roles to feel authentic, both Meg Ryan and Heather Burns, who plays Christina, worked at a bookstore for about a week prior to filming.

  • Brilliant Improvisation

    5

    After the balloons he was carrying got stuck in the door during the shop scene, Tom Hanks improvised the line "Good thing it wasn't the fish!" (His character was also carrying a goldfish.) Nora Ephron thought it was funny, so she kept it in the movie.

  • Barnes & Noble

    6

    The filmmakers originally wanted to use a real-life Barnes & Noble for Fox & Sons Books, but the chain said no. A recently closed Barney's location was used instead.

  • Surprise Appearances

    7

    There were so many stars in the supporting cast -- Parker Posey, Jean Stapleton, and Heather Burns to name a few -- including two who hadn't even had their big break yet: The Mindy Project's Chris Messina and Grey's Anatomy's Sara Ramirez.

  • Dave Chappelle's Second Chance

    8

    Dave was actually offered the role of Bubba Gump in Forrest Gump but turned it down. He got another chance to work with Tom Hanks playing his friend, Kevin, in You've Got Mail.

  • The Name Kimberly

    9

    What's funny about Kathleen bashing names such as Kimberly is that in When Harry Met Sally, Joe, the ex of Meg Ryan's character Sally, gets engaged to a woman named Kimberly -- and it sends Sally into a full-on meltdown.

  • The Name Birdie

    10

    Birdie Conrad was like a mother figure to Kathleen, whose own mother had passed away. The reverse of her name, however, Conrad Birdie, is the main character from the musical Bye Bye Birdie.

  • The Bookstore's Location

    11

    The Shop Around the Corner wasn't actually a bookstore. In real life, it was Maya Shaper's Cheese and Antique Shop. The filmmakers thought it had the right vibe, so they sent the owner on vacation for a few weeks, transformed the space into a bookstore, and then put everything back where they found it.

  • The Godfather

    12

    Like Joe Fox, Tom Hanks is a fan of the movie The Godfather. Alec Baldwin once revealed that the actor and Rob Reiner even throw an annual Godfather party.

  • Joe's Apartment

    13

    If Joe's apartment looks familiar, it's because it was also used in the movie Baby Mama.

  • A Deleted Scene


    14

    Actor Michael Palin was supposed to play a writer and villain of sorts in the movie, but his scene ended up getting cut.

  • Continuity Errors

    15

    They're not immediately obvious, but the movie does have its fair share of mistakes -- including wireless computers (there was only dial-up back then), Joe adding an olive twice while mixing drinks for his dad, and the rings from the street fair ring toss changing color (from green to red) throughout the scene.

  • New Technology

    16

    Apparently Meg Ryan got her first computer while filming. Oh, how the times have changed!

  • A Sequel

    17

    "Nora always thought of this movie as the sequel to Sleepless [In Seattle]," Delia Ephron told Vanity Fair.

    "And even though it isn’t the same characters or anything in our heads, it was always going to be for Meg and Tom. In our heads it was the sequel even though it isn’t strictly speaking 'the sequel.' It was them back together and they are magic together. So some of that has to do with how rare it is when romantic comedies just have the kind of chemistry they had."

  • A Specific Word

    18

    In the movie's DVD commentary, Nora Ephron explained why she wrote one line in particular.

    "I said to Meg, 'I think you should say that caviar is a garnish.' I've always tried to get the word garnish into a movie. Because I think it's just a funny word."

  • The Wizard of Oz References

    19

    There are a handful of references to The Wizard of Oz throughout the movie, from the book that Kathleen has on her nightstand (The Scarecrow of Oz) to the ruby slippers she hangs on the tree. Judy Garland, aka Dorothy, also played the main part another movie about pen pals inspired by The Shop Around the Corner titled In the Good Old Summertime.

  • Last Song

    20

    "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" doesn't just play when Kathleen and Joe get together at the end of the movie. The song also plays in another scene that Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks share in Sleepless in Seattle.

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