You’ve Got Mail trivia: 10 fascinating facts about the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie

15 September 2023, 12:57 | Updated: 23 October 2023, 10:44

You’ve Got Mail was a romantic comedy starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan from 1998.
You’ve Got Mail was a romantic comedy starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan from 1998. Picture: Getty
Hannah Lovejoy

By Hannah Lovejoy

You’ve Got Mail was one of the smash-hit romantic comedies of the late '90s with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan leading in the iconic movie.

Released in 1998, You’ve Got Mail told the story of two bookstore owners Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) and Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan).

Joe owned a book superstore while Kathleen owned an independent bookshop. The pair fall in love via dial-up internet and the couple are unaware that they are business rivals. And you can't help but fall in love with them.

Here are 10 book-ish facts about the classic romantic comedy movie You’ve Got Mail that you might not know.

  1. Meg Ryan received her first computer while on set

    Meg Ryan got first computer on set of You've Got Mail
    Meg Ryan got first computer on set of You've Got Mail. Picture: YouTube

    You’ve Got Mail was ahead of its time and introduced many of us to the internet and all it had to offer.

    The same is true for its leading star Meg Ryan as she didn’t have a personal computer until she received one on set. It’s thought that she sent her very own email to Tom Hanks!

  2. Marvel boss Kevin Feige taught Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan how to use technology

    Before he ran the Marvel Cinematic Universe full-time, Kevin Feige was a production assistant and worked on the set of You’ve Got Mail.

    One of his responsibilities was teaching Meg, Tom and director Nora Ephron how to use computers and send emails.

  3. Kathleen's bookstore is based on a real store in New York City

    In You’ve Got Mail, Kathleen’s children’s bookstore is based on Books of Wonder which was based on West 18th St. in New York City.

    The reason for this is that director Nora and her sister Delia Ephron shopping in the store since it opened in 1980. Books of Wonder is still open and has since moved locations.

    The Shop Around the Corner in You’ve Got Mail wasn’t filmed in a real bookstore but it did have over 7,000 real books on set.

    Elsewhere, Fox Books in the movie was based on the US book chain Barnes & Noble. The franchise wouldn’t let the You’ve Got Mail production shoot at any of their locations, so, they used a derelict Barney’s department store.

    Fox Books was built from scratch and it’s thought that 25,000 books were used on set. Nora asked for all of the books to be stocked in the correct section and there was also a coffee bar.

  4. The movie had another name before its release because of potential trademark issues

    Originally, the film was titled You Have Mail but it was changed after an interesting discovery.

    A consultant hired by Warner Bros found out that AOL hadn’t trademarked their iconic “You’ve Got Mail” greeting. Elwood Edwards first recorded the greeting for the company in 1989 and his request for a voice credit in the movie was denied.

    You’ve Got Mail also had to ask the person with the username ‘Shopgirl’ to give it up so that Kathleen could use it in the movie.

  5. Dave Chappelle was allowed to improv for his entire performance

    Dave Chappelle was allowed to improv throughout all of You've Got Mail
    Dave Chappelle was allowed to improv throughout all of You've Got Mail. Picture: YouTube

    Before joining the You’ve Got Mail cast, Dave Chapelle turned down a role in Forrest Gump.

    Dave was keen to take on the role of Kevin in the movie as a result of this. Kevin was Joe’s business partner in You've Got Mail. While filming, Nora gave Dave the creative freedom to improv all of his lines for the movie.

  6. Michael Palin had a whole storyline but he was cut from the movie

    Michael Palin
    Michael Palin. Picture: Getty

    The film actually also starred Monty Python legend Michael Palin in a subplot in which Kathleen's boyfriend Frank (Greg Kinnear) tries to help save The Shop Around the Corner by getting the help of “William Spungeon, the most famously reclusive author since JD Salinger.”

    Spungeon was played by Palin, and the character comes out to show his support, and how he was in love with Kathleen's late mother. He also had a moment where Kathleen had to knee him in the groin after he made an advance towards her.

    However, the scenes were deleted from the film, which by the sounds of it was probably a good thing (as much as we love Sir Michael!).

    Meanwhile, when You’ve Got Mail was reviewed, it was too long and several other subplots had to be cut out of the final edit.

    This includes Christina (Heather Burns) going dating, George (Steve Zahn) dating someone he thinks could be the Rooftop Killer and nearly all of Veronica’s (Deborah Rush) scenes.

    In the original You’ve Got Mail script, Joe and Kathleen’s ex-partners, Patricia (Parker Posey) and Frank (Greg Kinnear) end up getting together as well.

  7. Tom Hanks improvised an iconic moment in You've Got Mail

    During You’ve Got Mail, Tom improvised one of Joe’s most memorable moments from the movie. When Joe leaves The Shop Around the Corner after he first meets Kathleen he closes the shop door on balloons he was holding for his family.

    While holding a fish in his other hand, Joe said: “Good thing it wasn’t the fish”.

    The fish was won earlier in the movie at a fair and Tom improvised the entire moment - Nora liked what he had done and kept it in the final edit of You’ve Got Mail.

  8. Meg Ryan and Heather Burns prepped for their roles in a real bookshop

    Meg Ryan and Heather Burns prepped for You've Got Mail by working in a real bookstore
    Meg Ryan and Heather Burns prepped for You've Got Mail by working in a real bookstore. Picture: YouTube

    Meg and Heather trained together in a real bookshop before they started filming You've Got Mail. They did this so that their performance was more “natural” when their characters were working throughout the movie.

    Speaking to Vanity Fair, Heather said: “We worked at Books of Wonder in the children’s bookstore for a week. We learned the register so we would look natural when we got in the store.”

  9. You’ve Got Mail had future stars in its supporting cast

    Chris Messina and Sara Ramirez star in You've Got Mail in 1998.
    Chris Messina and Sara Ramirez star in You've Got Mail in 1998. Picture: YouTube

    You’ve Got Mail had an impressive cast and even featured stars who were in their early careers.

    This included Chris Messina in one of his early acting roles as a Fox salesperson. His character was a clueless sales associate who worked at Fox Books and he needed Kathleen’s help.

    Since this role, Chris has played a leading role as Danny Castellano in The Mindy Project and most recently starred as Victor Zsasz in Birds of Prey.

    Sara Ramirez also starred in You've Got Mail as Rose the Zabars cashier - it was Sara's first acting role according to IMDB. Since You've Got Mail, Sara has gone on to star as Dr Callie Torres in Grey's Anatomy.

  10. Nora saw it as the sequel to Sleepless in Seattle

    Nora always saw You’ve Got Mail as the sequel to Sleepless in Seattle, according to her sister Delia. This is due to Nora being able to work with Tom and Meg once more on another romantic movie.

    “Nora always thought of this movie as the sequel to Sleepless. And even though it isn’t the same characters or anything in our heads, it was always going to be for Meg and Tom,” Delia explained to Vanity Fair.

    “In our heads, it was the sequel even though it isn’t strictly speaking ‘the sequel’. It was them back together and they are magic together. So some of that has to do with how rare it is when romantic comedies just have the kind of chemistry they had.”