Meg Ryan Arrives in Taormina as Festgoers Mourn James Gandolfini

Meg Ryan arriving at the fest.
Meg Ryan arriving at the fest.
 Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

TAORMINA, Sicily – Sleepless in Seattle star Meg Ryan arrived at the Taormina Film Festival on Thursday, injecting some much-needed levity into an event grappling with the death of James Gandolfini, who had been expected to be part of the 59-year-old fest’s grand finale Saturday.

Flashing her trademark smile and often giggling as she recounted career anecdotes throughout an hour\long Tao Class on Thursday, Ryan was just what the doctor ordered.

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Festival artistic director Mario Sesti, the Tao Class host, steered clear of the Gandolfini tragedy Thursday, leaving Ryan free to wow the enthusiastic audience with tales from her storied career, including two anecdotes connected with the famous restaurant orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally. In one question, a local student asked whether that scene ever made her subsequent boyfriends doubt her sincerity in bed as a result of her proven ability to fake her pleasure.

“I can’t believe I’ve never been asked that before!” Ryan exclaimed. “Well, no, I don’t think so. I never got any complaints” -- a line she lifted from co-star Billy Crystal, which set up the whole scene.

Ryan also said that her 8-year-old daughter, Daisy True, was taken on a school field trip to Katz’s Delicatessen in New York, where the scene was filmed. There, her daughter was confronted by a framed photo of her mother in the throes of passion from the film.

“She asked me what was happening in the photo,” Ryan said. “I explained that I’d tell her about it in a few years.”

Ryan also talked about the joy of working with talented male leads in her career, singling out Tom Hanks, whom she starred with in Sleepless in Seattle, Joe Versus the Volcano and You've Got Mail, and the difference between working with male and female directors.

"Often with a male director, the female lead is not the subject of the film but an object," Ryan said. "But a female director tells the story through the female actors. It's easier."

Ryan’s arrival at the picturesque cliffside Sicilian festival was the highlight of a day that also includes the Italian premiere of Trance, a crime drama from Danny Boyle set to screen in Taormina’s 2,400-year-old Teatro Antico venue. Ryan will receive the festival Tao Arte award before the screening.

The festival, which started June 15, concludes Saturday, which will be highlighted by a special tribute to Gandolfini and the international launch of Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger, also in the Teatro Antico.

Twitter: @EricJLyman

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