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Julia Roberts surprisingly turned down a truly great Tom Hanks rom-com

Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks could've worked together much sooner if she had just said yes to one of his best rom-coms in the 1990s.

Julia Roberts turned down one of the best Tom Hanks rom-coms from the '90s

In the ’90s, Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks dominated the world of big screen rom-coms, drawing rave reviews and millions of box office dollars. So why did it take until 2007 for them to work together, and until 2011 before they led a rom-com? That comes down to Roberts’ choice of projects.

It turns out that Julia Roberts turned down the chance to appear in one of the best Tom Hanks movies, rejecting the role ultimately played by Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail. With both at the height of their powers and making some of their best movies, it would’ve been a real dream team.

Roberts explained hear near-miss with one of the best rom-coms ever while appearing on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen. She was asked a question about whether she passed on any new movies that went on to become huge successes.

“None that I have regrets about because I think it’s all kind of destiny. I do believe that,” said Roberts. “What have I passed on that went on to be great and wonderful and I thought it maybe wouldn’t have been as great and wonderful with me? You’ve Got Mail and Last of the Mohicans.”

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Roberts stepped aside, which meant that Meg Ryan played the role of children’s bookshop owner Kathleen in the movie. She had already made two movies with Hanks, receiving mixed reviews for Joe Versus the Volcano but then hitting big with Sleepless in Seattle – another role Roberts nearly played – just a few years later.

The proven chemistry between Hanks and Ryan is a huge part of what made You’ve Got Mail one of the best ’90s movies. It’s still a rom-com favorite for us today. And as for Roberts, it’s fair to say that missing out on You’ve Got Mail didn’t hurt her career at all. Understatement of the year? She eventually shared the screen with Hanks in Charlie Wilson’s War and Larry Crowne.

In fact, Roberts explained that the best actors of the period often had multiple sliding doors moments like this. For her and Ryan, things worked both ways. She said: “Meg Ryan was supposed to be in Steel Magnolias. She was still filming When Harry Met Sally, so I got that part.”

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan were eventually the stars of You've Got Mail

Roberts is currently starring in the psychological thriller Leave the World Behind, which is one of the biggest Netflix movies of 2023 and also stars Ethan Hawke and Mahershala Ali. It might be 30 years since Roberts was the most bankable actor in Hollywood, but she’s still an undeniable movie star.

For more on Roberts, find out why Barack Obama terrified her latest director and learn how Richard Gere convinced her to do a rom-com. Elsewhere, check out our recommendations for the best comedy movies of all time and see what else is new on Netflix this month.