Meg Ryan was at the height of her acting career. Then, she took on a controversial role.

Meg Ryan was once the undisputed queen of romantic comedies.

You’re no doubt now picturing the actress atop the Empire State Building, gazing adoringly into Tom Hanks‘ kind eyes. Or in that ever-so memorable orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally. Or perhaps sat behind a clunky laptop, ardently reading her emails.

A few threads neatly tie these iconic cinematic moments together, and work to form an important era in the now 57-year-old actress’ life: The films bask in constant love by the public as our favourite rom-coms, Ryan’s characters were all quite similar (give or take a few likable quirks), and they all came out within a ten year period that was the 90s.

In fact, You’ve Got Mail was probably one of her last notable films before we just stopped seeing her on the big screen.

While the public might be confused as to why this is, Ryan thinks she knows why.

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Meg Ryan's ten year marriage to fellow actor Dennis Quaid also added to her "American sweetheart" image. When they split, she began an intense relationship with Russell Crowe, which scandalised her fanbase. Image: Getty.

In an interview with The New York Times, Ryan cited her film In The Cut as the pivotable moment it all changed. 

"Sexuality in Hollywood is so complex because of all kinds of things: how women react to you, how men react to you, how wives react to you, how studio executives react to you," she began.

"I don’t know if it was brave or cowardly of me to sort of bob and weave around the issue," the actress said about her relatively safer roles during the height of her career.

"...When I did In the Cut, the reaction was vicious. I feel like that might’ve been the last movie I did. I was surprised by the negative reaction."

Meg Ryan at her latest red carpet appearance, in November 2018. Source: Getty.

The 2003 erotic thriller film - also starring Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Jason Leigh - explored the entanglement of Ryan's character, Frannie, in a series of murders.

Throughout the film, Frannie had several explicit sexual encounters with detective Giovanni, played by Ruffalo, which Ryan claimed stunned both critics and her devoted audience.

"I’d never presented myself like that before; it was so different from my assigned archetype. Probably I had a very neutered image," she explained.

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Meg Ryan is perhaps best known for her on-screen chemistry with Tom Hanks. Image: Getty.

As the film fizzled out of the public eye, taking its controversies surrounding Ryan's now tainted "American sweetheart" image with it, it seemed her career did too.

Since 2003, Ryan's eight films haven't been big box office successes. The actress has instead starred in independent films such as In The Land of Women and Serious Moonlight.

Although the actress isn't as much of a familiar face as she was before, she actually prefers it that way.

"I like the famous I am now. I walk into other people’s paparazzi photos, but I can also get a restaurant reservation," Ryan told the New York Times.

Ryan has enjoyed expanding her skillset within the film and television industry, making her directorial debut with the drama film Ithaca in 2015.

Sure, we don't see her on screen as much anymore, but for Ryan - both personally and professionally - perhaps that isn't such a bad thing.