“While You Were Sleeping” Turns 25! Casting Secrets Revealed! Hear Sandra Bullock’s Magical Story Is My “Cult Movie Monday!”

“While You Were Sleeping” Turns 25!

A classic romantic comedy just turned 25 – and this “Cult Movie Monday” has lots of great insider stories about the film!

Having lived in Chicago, my wife and I love that this classic film was made on location there!

The Washington Post has great stories about the origin of the movie, some of the interesting casting choices, and why it still resonates today – all told by the people involved!

“‘While You Were Sleeping’ turns 25: An oral history of the Sandra Bullock rom-com” is a great article by Ashley Spencer – she interviewed everyone involved in the making of the film, let’s listen in!

It all began with the plot — a lonely woman, in a star-making performance by Sandra Bullock, convinces the family of Peter Gallagher that she’s his fiancee after he falls into a coma!

Co-writers Daniel G. Sullivan and Fredric Lebow first pitched the idea of a man falling in love with an unconscious woman!

First, check out the trailer:

Co-writers Daniel G. Sullivan and Fredric Lebow first pitched the idea of a man falling in love with an unconscious woman!

As you can imagine, no one was interested!

DANIEL G. SULLIVAN, co-writer: Nobody liked it. We went to Meg Ryan’s company and the development person there said, “Why would Meg Ryan want to do this movie? She’s unconscious the whole time.” So we decided to flip it, and once we made that switch, everything worked. When a guy is sitting next to a brain dead woman, it’s very predatory. But when you put a woman next to a guy, it’s sweet. We started calling it “Coma Guy,” but everyone still passed until we took it to a producer named Arthur Sarkissian.

ARTHUR SARKISSIAN, executive producer: I thought it was terrific, and I had known them to be good writers from another script we worked on together that never got made.

So, how did they get Sandra Bullock?

She wasn’t well known at the time, having just finished filming her breakout role in “Speed.”

TURTELTAUB: I had a meeting with Demi Moore, and we came very close to Nicole Kidman. But in the back of my mind, I was thinking that they were way too pretty. It’s hard to de-beautify Nicole Kidman.

SARKISSIAN: There was Julia Roberts. There was Meg Ryan. There was Demi Moore. They were very big at the time, and I just couldn’t see any of those superstars being a person working in a toll booth. You just wouldn’t believe that.

But they knew immediately that Bullock would be that girl.

SANDRA BULLOCK, who played Lucy: I was an auditioning actor. This was the one thing that came along that I wanted so badly, not as a desperate actor, but just because the story was so sweet.

It was also a case of perfect timing for Bill Pullman, who plays Gallagher’s brother, and who ultimately winds up with Bullock.

TURTELTAUB: There was no question Bill Pullman was the right guy for the part, but the other guys in the waiting room were James Spader, Dylan McDermott and a guy who was unbelievably charming and attractive: a brand-new Matthew McConaughey. But he had a Texas accent and none of us could rewrite this movie to take place in Texas or explain why he was in Chicago at that point.

SARKISSIAN: He did say he could change the accent, but I don’t think anybody believed him.

SANDRICH: Bill had an innate sweetness and a nice working-class feel. He had not been perceived as a romantic leading man before.

BILL PULLMAN, who played Jack: I didn’t really think of romantic comedies as my turf. At that point, I was embarrassed about the preciousness of it. But I read the script, and I was like, wow, this is a classic story.

And as for the “coma guy:”

PETER GALLAGHER, who played Peter: For a period of time, I seemed to fit the mold of the yuppie a–hole very, very well. They called him Peter Callahan, for God’s sake, so I think they were thinking of me. It would be nice to be the guy who gets the girl, but that was never really my thing.

Gallagher was on The Kelly Clarkson Show, and win this clip he discusses how difficult it actually was to play a comatose man!

With Peter in a coma, most of Gallagher’s scenes involved him actually sleeping on the constructed hospital set.

GALLAGHER: I just have to believe that your face looks a little different when you’re lying there pretending rather than lying there drooling. I wouldn’t get out of bed between takes, and I never stayed out late because I was worried I could fall asleep so deeply, I wouldn’t wake up. That could be very embarrassing. God knows what kind of noises I could be making.

BULLOCK: And then you had us, the motley crew, surrounding him. Do you think that we were able to get through a scene and keep a straight face? No. We were all unruly children who would start giggling. The poor guy was probably thinking, “Just finish the f—ing scene, so I can go home and stretch my body.”

For Bullock, she immediately felt comfortable in the character’s clothing…

BULLOCK: Dressing like Lucy was very similar to dressing like me. I like to hide every single aspect of my body, and then I feel like I have a good suit of armor on and I feel comfortable and safe. The only time I get into sexy-time clothes is when I’m doing press.

PULLMAN: I remember being down in the fitness room at our hotel with Sandra, and we were counting crunches with each other. That’s the first time I remember thinking, wow, she’s something else. She’s got that side of her that’s like a good camp counselor where she’s like, “Come on, we can do this. Let’s go.”

BULLOCK: It was the most fun I have ever had on a film. When we got off work, we would all find a local salsa [dancing] place or place to eat. We would slide dance and have Scattergories parties or just do crazy stuff. I go, where did I get the energy? I don’t think I ever slept. Everything about that experience was magical.

And now, 25 years on, a romantic comedy that has held up so well…did Sandra ever think its would be such a timeless classic?

BULLOCK: Did anyone expect us to make money? I don’t know. I was so new to the business. I was just happy to be there.

You can see the entire story by clicking on this link – bravo again to Writer Ashley Spencer for a terrific oral history!


This is a classic romantic comedy – just as this one was as well:

“When Harry Met Sally” has a terrific cast and a “sharp as nails” script…directed by Rob Reiner…and of course, THAT SCENE:

Find out who came up with the idea for that classic movie moment – click here for details:


Bravo to “When Harry Met Sally”, a timeless classic – and of course to Katz’s Delicatessen as well, may you last a hundred years more!

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Thanks so much for reading – leave a comment with your favorite romantic comedy!

Categories: Art, Books / Media, chicago, Comedy Movies, Cult Movies, Film Fight Club, Great Films, Memoirs, Movies, Pop Culture, Talent/Celebrities

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22 replies

  1. Oh, it does not feel like 25 years since we got this on VHS…..

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rom-com is not my favourite genre as a rule, but I thought the premise of this story was unusual, and the cast did a great job.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love all the Sandra Bullock movies. Great movies, here!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. i loved this movie and it made me fall in love with bill pullman!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I remain a big fan of this one, John. It’s annual viewing come Christmas time. The casting is perfect and it continues to lift my spirits. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That was a charming movie. I can’t believe it’s 25 years old! Good grief.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Reading this made me endlessly happy. While You Were Sleeping is my favorite movie – and I’ve watched it every year with my family since I was a little girl. It’s incredibly special to me, and I could pretty much quote it from beginning to end – haha! Learning about all the things that led to it happening was wonderful. Thanks for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sandra Bullock was a big favourite of mine, John. Such a great feel good movie.

    Liked by 1 person

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