‘When Harry Met Sally...’ director Rob Reiner reveals why the rom-com still resonates with fans

The classic rom-com “When Harry Met Sally…” is turning 30 this summer and director Rob Reiner still can’t believe the film has stood the test of time.

The 1989 film explores how Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) have known each other for years, but fear sex would ruin their friendship.

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Two of its stars, writer Nora Ephron and actress Carrie Fisher, have since passed away, but the hit flick has lived on. In fact, it kicked off the 10th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival on Thursday in Hollywood.

The Princess of Wales, Princess Diana, attends the Premiere of "When Harry Met Sally..." in London's West End. The Princess, wearing a Bruce Oldfield red chiffon dress embroidered in a tartan design in silver Lam, talks to American actors Meg Ryan and actor Billy Crystal who star in the film, 30th November 1989. — Photo by Kent Gavin/Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

The Princess of Wales, Princess Diana, attends the Premiere of "When Harry Met Sally..." in London's West End. The Princess, wearing a Bruce Oldfield red chiffon dress embroidered in a tartan design in silver Lam, talks to American actors Meg Ryan and actor Billy Crystal who star in the film, 30th November 1989. — Photo by Kent Gavin/Daily Mirror/Mirrorpix/Getty Images

“All I can never do is I look into myself and try to figure out, ‘How do I think as a man?’” Reiner, 72, recently told The Associated Press on why he believes “When Harry Met Sally…” still resonates with audiences.

“There are certain universal things that men experience and the fact that I was working with Nora Ephron, she brought the female perspective to the mix, and we made it a part of the creative process to say what actually happens between men and women,” explained Reiner. “You know, it’s not about [two cute people meeting] or putting some obstacles between the lovers so that they get together, but what actually happens with men and women. That was really the motivation for me.”

Reiner also shared he relied on real-life events for much-needed inspiration to bring the film to life.

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Director Rob Reiner speaks at the second annual Women's March in Los Angeles, Calif., Jan. 20, 2018.

Director Rob Reiner speaks at the second annual Women's March in Los Angeles, Calif., Jan. 20, 2018. (Reuters)

“Because I was married for 10 years and had been single for 10 years and I was making a mess of my dating life,” he said. “I kept saying, ‘How does this work?’ How do a man and woman get together?’ I started thinking about that and I talked to Nora and she liked the idea and we started working on it. I think people see some basic truths about men and women when they watch that movie.”

Despite the lasting success of “When Harry Met Sally…” Reiner is aware that the romantic comedy genre isn’t making as big of a splash in theaters these days.

“I don’t know why,” he explained. “To me, the dance that happens between men and women is forever. That is the mating dance. That’s what we do. The studios are making a certain kind of film and basically, they’re big-event, franchise-type pictures with lots of CGI and action and all that stuff. And they’re not really focused on human dramas or romantic comedies or courtroom dramas. The only people who were making these kinds of things would be independent filmmakers and it’s very tough to make an honest film about what happens.”

Reiner said young, budding filmmakers have plenty of freedom to take on romantic comedy, but chances are the big studios will pass on them.

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“… You can’t get them made at studios,” he said. “They don’t make those kinds of films. The only comedy, sort of romantic, they’re R-rated. They don’t make just relationship movies.”

Reiner also noted that the idea of “When Harry Met Sally…” turning 30 “makes me feel old,” but he’s eager to revisit a magical moment from his career.

“It’s really cool,” he said. “You make a film and you don’t know if it’s going to stand the test of time or people are going to still like it. Whenever you’ve done something that people still enjoy it’s a pretty cool thing.”