Nearly three decades after Sleepless in Seattle was released, Nora Ephron’s rom-com continues to be beloved. So much so that Rosie O’Donnell, who plays Becky, the friend of Meg Ryan’s central character, Annie, is still being asked about it, just as she was when she made the rounds to promote the movie.
“I was saying to people during interviews that they should give Bette Midler a residual check because I was copying the way Bette Middler walked, sort of the way she talked,” O’Donnell told Vulture for a story published Thursday. “It was an homage to Bette for me. When I’m walking with Meg in the park, I’m doing my Bette Midler walk.”
O’Donnell found her inspiration not from her director but on her own; She’s a fan of comedic actresses of the past. She couldn’t resist keeping Midler, the star of comedies such as Down and Out in Beverly Hills and Big Business, in mind as she played Annie’s co-worker and friend, who remains (mostly) grounded as Annie becomes caught up in the romance of it all. As fans will recall, Becky cries right along with Annie while watching An Affair to Remember but she also tells her friend, “That’s your problem. You don’t want to be in love, you want to be in love in a movie.”
“It was all Bette Midler! I kept thinking, What would Bette do?” O’Donnell said of her take on the character. “How would Bette spice up this part and make it come alive on the screen, which she’s so good at doing? Nora never brought it up to me or never asked what the inspiration was.”
(Ephron died in June 2012.)
O’Donnell noted that, while some would aspire to play the lead in a film, she had always wanted to play the sidekick.
“The funny best friend was the goal when I was starting as an actor,” she said, “and I was so lucky that I got to do it a bunch of times.”
The box-office hit was only O’Donnell’s second film. Her first was A League of Their Own‘s Doris Murphy, the third base player for the Rockford Peaches and the best friend of Madonna’s “All the Way” Mae Mordabito. In 1994, she played Betty Rubble, the bestie of Elizabeth Perkins’s Wilma Flintstone in a live-action version of The Flintstones. All three made big bucks and transformed O’Donnell from a funny Star Search contestant into someone who could, by 1996, headline her own daytime talk show.
While O’Donnell was clearly a success on the big screen, she said she had harbored an alternate dream: being a backup singer for Midler.