You've Got Mail

USA 1998, 119 mins
Director: Nora Ephron

You’ve Got Mail began with executive producer Julie Durk, who, after watching the classic film The Shop around the Corner, thought it would be a great movie to remake. She brought it to the attention of producer Lauren Shuler Donner, who optioned the rights from Turner Pictures, which owned the film.

Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron, who have built an enviable reputation as both storytellers and filmmakers, were next approached about writing and directing the project. The Ephrons were longtime fans of The Shop around the Corner, and immediately embraced the idea of updating and remaking the story.

It was Lauren Shuler Donner’s idea to set the film in the world of the Internet. In the original film, James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan correspond by writing letters. Shuler Donner felt that the modern version of anonymous correspondence is the instantaneous ‘cyber post office’ of email.

‘The Internet affords you a great candour and intimacy,’ says Lauren Shuler Donner. ‘You can’t be embarrassed because you don’t know the person. I think that, being on the Internet, one may expose oneself further and faster in a relationship than one would normally in a face-to-face situation.’

There are very clear rules that most people follow on the Internet. As Nora Ephron says, ‘You don’t tell who you are. It’s very much about safety and about being free to say whatever you want to, without ever thinking that you’re going to be faced with the fact that the person wears really ugly shoes or whatever your nightmare may be.

‘The Internet looks infinite,’ continues Ephron. ‘But, like a great big city, it’s really a series of villages, full of people who care about similar things connecting with one another.’

This sentiment echoes Ephron’s view of New York City, and specifically the Upper West Side community where the movie is set. The Upper West Side is a self-contained, distinct and real neighbourhood, filled with both enduring landmarks and noisy construction: small shops that have been there for decades, where the owners know their customers by name; restaurants where people become regulars over time; parks where children greet one another on their daily excursions; all set side-by-side with new apartment buildings and businesses that compete for space and attention. The neighbourhood is active and organic, evolving and growing, yet retaining its singular flavour, style and pace. It’s both small town and big city, familiar and forbidding, endearing and overwhelming.

No one knows this world better than its longtime residents, Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron. They have sought to reveal their special neighbourhood in all its multi-textured glory.

Delia Ephron was inspired to recreate the warmth of the specialty shop in the original movie, where the employers formed a sort of family, by setting the story around two very different bookstores. ‘Bookstores have become more than just stores to buy books – they are places where people browse and drink coffee and meet and stay for hours,’ she explains.

The two bookstores in You’ve Got Mail are quite dissimilar. The Shop around the Corner is a small, beloved children’s bookstore that has been an integral part of the neighbourhood for two generations. Fox Books is the latest branch of a giant chain of bookstores. The small store caters to its young clientele with a knowledgeable, book-loving staff and intimate story hours, often presided over by the shop owner. The chain, with its café, infinitely larger stock and discounted prices, appeals to a much larger crowd composed of all ages, who are interested in relaxing and socialising amid the stacks of books and racks of magazines.

Production designer Dan Davis felt that filming in existing sites in New York City, rather than on a soundstage, would more fully bring the unique flavour of New York to the story; it was an idea that the filmmakers enthusiastically embraced. The two bookstores were actually created on the streets of Manhattan. The Fox Books façade, in fact, appeared so authentic during its construction that passers-by regularly asked the production crew when the new bookstore would be opening.

The filmmakers of You’ve Got Mail knew immediately the identities of the actors they wanted for their lead characters. The project became an exciting reality when two-time Oscar-winner Tom Hanks and critical and popular favourite Meg Ryan agreed to play the roles of Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly.

Nora Ephron is thrilled to be working with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan for the second time. ‘I always have both of them in mind. It’s very hard if you write a comedy to not think about both of them, because they are so good. And it’s a short list of people who can do comedy, much less do it well.’

Ephron says there is a bonus to pairing them in a movie. ‘You know how often you see married couples who almost look as if they’ve cast each other? They kind of look as if they belong together. Tom and Meg look as if they belong together. That’s the truth.

‘Long before we started to remake The Shop around the Corner,’ continues Ephron, ‘I had been saying that Tom Hanks is as close as there is to Jimmy Stewart and, of course, now he is playing the part that Jimmy Stewart once played. Tom has such charm; he is so irresistible that he can play a bad guy and you never once believe that he doesn’t truly have a heart. I think Tom and Meg share something, which is that men and women love them in equal amounts.’
Warner Bros. production notes

Director: Nora Ephron
Production Company: Warner Bros.
Executive Producers: Delia Ephron, Julie Durk, G. Mac Brown
Producers: Lauren Shuler Donner, Nora Ephron
Co-producer: Donald J. Lee Jr
Associate Producer: Dianne Dreyer
Unit Production Manager: Donald J. Lee Jr
Production Co-ordinator: Patty Willett
Location Manager: Randy Sokol Sweeney
Assistant Location Managers: Jan Ellen Goldstein, Santiago Quiñones
Post-production (Supervisor): Tom Proper
Post-production (Co-ordinator): Carolyn Jean White
1st Assistant Director: David Sardi
2nd Assistant Director: Maggie Murphy
2nd 2nd Assistant Director: Ken Brown
Script Supervisor: Dianne Dreyer
Casting: Francine Maisler
Casting Associate: Patricia Kerrigan
Screenplay: Nora Ephron, Delia Ephron
Based on the screenplay by: Samson Raphaelson
From the play ‘Parfumerie’ by: Miklos Laszlo
Director of Photography: John Lindley
Computer Unit Director of Photography: Paul Gaffney
Camera Operator: Craig DiBona
CG Supervisor: Lauren Denapoli
Technical Supervisor: Adam Hawkey
Special Effects: Steve Kirshoff, J.C. Brotherhood
Computer Programmers: Arnold Kaye, Kathleen King
Computer Co-ordinator: Elizabeth Segal
Video/Computer Playback Operator: Howard Weiner
Graphic Artist: Tim Arnold
Editor: Richard Marks
Associate Editor: Tia Nolan
Production Designer: Dan Davis
Art Directors: Ray Kluga, Beth Kuhn
Set Decorators: Susan Bode, Ellen Christiansen
Master Scenic Artist: Richard Ventre
Storyboard Artist: Brick Mason
Property Master: James Mazzola
Costume Designer: Albert Wolsky
Meg Ryan’s Costumer: Gail Just
Men’s Wardrobe: Tommy Boyer
Women’s Wardrobe: Cheryl Kilbourne-Kimpton
Key Make-up: Bernadette Mazur
Make-up: Don Kozma
Meg Ryan’s Make-up: Lutz Wesemann
Key Hair: Werner Sherer
Hair: John Quaglia
Meg Ryan’s Hair: Matthew Shields
Main Title Sequence Design/Animation: Walter Bernard, Milton Glaser, Mirko Ilic
Titles: Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc., Pacific Title/Mirage
Opticals: The Effects House, Buena Vista Imaging
Music: George Fenton
Orchestrator: Jeff Atmajian
Music Supervisor: Nick Meyers
Music Score Mixer: John Richards
Music Consultant: Jeffrey Pollack
Choreography: Susan Stroman
Production Mixer: Christopher Newman
Boom Operators: Marc-Jon Sullivan, Gregg Harris
Re-recording Mixers: Lee Dichter, Ron Bochar
Supervising Sound Editor: Ron Bochar
Dialogue Editors: Nicholas Renbeck, Magdaline Volaitis
Sound Effects Editor: Lewis Goldstein
ADR Mixers: David Boulton, Thomas J. O’Connell
ADR Editor: Deborah Wallach
Foley Artists: Marko Costanzo, Jay Peck
Foley Mixer: Mathew Haasch
Supervising Foley Editor: Ben Cheah
Foley Editors: Kam Chan, Frank Kern
Stunt Co-ordinators: Jery Hewitt, Peter Bucossi
Consultant: Pat Braun
Animal Trainers: Birds and Animals Unlimited, Animal Actors Inc

Tom Hanks (Joe Fox)
Meg Ryan (Kathleen Kelly)
Parker Posey (Patricia Eden)
Jean Stapleton (Birdie)
Dave Chappelle (Kevin Scanlon)
Steve Zahn (George Pappas)
Dabney Coleman (Nelson Fox)
Greg Kinnear (Frank Navasky)
Heather Burns (Christina)
John Randolph (Schuyler Fox)
Deborah Rush (Veronica Grant)
Hallee Hirsh (Annabel Fox)
Jeffrey Scaperrotta (Matt Fox)
Cara Seymour (Gillian, Nelson’s fiancée)
Katie Finneran (Maureen, the nanny)
Michael Badalucco (Charlie, lift attendant)
Veanne Cox (Miranda Margulies, children’s author)
Bruce Jay Friedman (Vince Mancini)
Sara Ramirez (Rose, Zabars cashier)
Howard Spiegel (Henry, irate Zabars shopper)
Diane Sokolow, Julie Kass (Zabars shoppers)
Reiko Aylesworth (Thanksgiving guest)
Katie Sagona (young Kathleen Kelly)
Kathryn Meisle (Cecilia Kelly)
Nina Zoie Lam (Sidne Anne, TV reporter)
Maggie Murphy (theatre patron)
Michelle Blakely, Meredith White, Dianne Dreyer, Julie Galdieri, Leila Nichols (shoppers)
Mary Kelly (Fox Books shopper)
Chris Messina (Fox salesperson)
Ronobir Lahiri (man at Café Lalo)
André Sogliuzzo (waiter at Café Lalo)
Peter A. Mian (capeman at Starbucks)
Richard Cohen, Enzo Angileri (Starbucks customers)
Nick Brown (juggler)
Ann Fleuchaus (Sarah Mancini)
Neil Bonin, Bill McHugh (party guests)
Santiago Quiñones (decorator)
Lynn Grossman (Yvette Fox)
Dolores Sirianni (mother of twins)
Nicole Bernadette (florist)
Bonnie, Clovis (Brinkley)
Lucy (dog in elevator)

USA 1998
119 mins

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Programme notes and credits compiled by Sight and Sound and the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
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