The actress joined her former Flesh and Bone costar, Gwyneth Paltrow, at the In Goop Health wellness summit in Los Angeles, California on Saturday. Sitting down for a Q&A with Goop founder Paltrow, Ryan addressed bowing out of Hollywood by admitting she had been "very reactive instead of proactive," when it came to her career.
“I didn't really aim to be an actor,” she noted. “I was a journalism major at school, and a curious person, and I wanted to go back out into the world and figure out who I was -- am -- in relation to other things and other people and other environments."
While she never intended on becoming an actress, the mom of two said “for the most part,” she had fun throughout her acting heyday, yet often felt like she was watching someone else’s life unfold.
"I never wanted to be an actress. The whole idea of being a famous person ... I felt like a witness to, I didn’t feel exactly in it, and I think that was a really good thing,” she explained. I felt like a student of it in a way, or that I was watching it in an anthropological way."
"When you’re a famous person, there’s a certain degree of blankness that needs to happen so that people can project on you,” she added. “Despite what you may think, people don’t really want to know all that much about you. They want to imagine the best or the worst. So, when you’re caught in that, it really is interesting because you get reactions that have almost nothing to do with you and some that have everything to do with you, and you have to be this jiu-jitsu master to figure out what mirror you should actually be looking in."
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Rising to fame with iconic movies like 1989’s When Harry Met Sally… and 1993 hit, Sleepless in Seattle, one of those most notable “reactions” to her celebrity status was being labeled “America’s sweetheart.”
Asked by Paltrow, 45, how she felt about the term, Ryan, 56, said she never knew if it was a good label.
“When you get labeled anything like 'America’s sweetheart,' I didn’t even know what that meant,” she said. “Nora Ephron’s parents wrote scripts in old Hollywood and there was such a thing as America’s Sweetheart in the '40s and she decided to say that about me one day and I remember thinking, 'Is that good?'”