The real houseboat from the classic Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan rom-com Sleepless in Seattle went on the market recently, so I thought it would be fun to revisit it and compare the movie version to the real thing.
Okay, so the houses aren’t really boats because they never leave the dock, and they’re technically called floating homes, but that just doesn’t have the same ring as a houseboat, does it? The one his character Sam lived in is on Lake Union near the University of Washington and Pike Place Market.
Houseboats started cropping up in the area in the 1890s, when sailors, fishermen and dock workers in Elliott Bay built homes on rafts. According to an article in The Washington Post:
During the Depression, low-income laborers took advantage of the geography and built or moved into tax-free houseboats. The houseboat population peaked in the 1930s, at about 2,000, but has since dropped to around 500. Still, Seattle boasts one of the country’s largest houseboat communities.
Ephron was inspired by An Affair to Remember, the classic tear-jerker starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr.
Sam (Hanks) is a widower with an 8-year old son named Jonah, who is determined to find him a new wife.
Sam is an architect, which is one of the most popular “movie careers” for men in romantic movies. I guess women like to fantasize about having a man who could design their dream home for them!
Rita Wilson, Tom Hanks’ real-life wife, played his sister Suzy in the movie. Even though this scene where he and Suzy’s husband Greg (Victor Garber) pretend to cry over the plot in The Dirty Dozen was totally improvised, it proved to be one of the most memorable.
Jonah doesn’t like his dad’s new girlfriend (or her laugh) and wants his dad to meet Annie instead.
The role of Annie Reed was originally offered to Julia Roberts, who turned it down. Second choice? Kim Basinger, who said the premise was “too ridiculous.”
The houseboat used for the film was put on the market in 2008 for $2.5 million. Here are some photos from the listing that show what it looks like today:
It was built in 1978 and has 4 bedrooms and 2 baths. With a little more than 2,000 square feet, it’s the largest floating home on Lake Union, with views of downtown Seattle.
It has the same kind of beams in the main living areas as in the movie, but otherwise bears little resemblance to the movie interiors, which I’m assuming were sets.
The bench overlooking the water was left by the movie crew after filming wrapped:
It reportedly sold for more than $2 million in 2014. For more listing photos (via Rick Miner of Coldwell Banker Danforth) and information about the house, check the Puget Sound Business Journal.
In the end, Annie and Sam finally meet at the top of the Empire State Building in New York (just like Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr were supposed to do before tragedy struck in An Affair to Remember.) Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks actually spend less than 2 minutes onscreen together in the movie.
Ryan and Hanks teamed up again in 1998 for You’ve Got Mail. The post I wrote about Meg Ryan’s brownstone in that movie continues to be one of the most popular on my blog. Do you have a favorite Nora Ephron movie?
P.S. Visit Houses Onscreen to see more, including…