CATEGORIES On the Scene

Long before online dating had become de rigueur in America, Nora Ephron boosted romantic morale nationwide with her 1993 film, 'Sleepless In Seattle.' Tom Hanks stars as Sam Baldwin, a widower whose young son, Jonah (Ross Malinger), calls a radio talk show to try to find a new woman for his dad, and convinces Sam to open up on air about how much he misses his late wife. Annie Reed (Meg Ryan), a reporter in Baltimore, hears the interview and is instantly smitten: On a whim after watching the 1957 love-fest 'An Affair to Remember,' she writes to Sam and suggests that, like Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr's classic characters, they meet atop the Empire State Building.

Amid Sam's sudden flood of letters from admirers and would-be wives, it's Annie's missive that catches Jonah's attention. Despite Sam's misgivings, Jonah is determined to unite them, and even sneaks off to New York to find Annie. Of course, the rendez-vous doesn't exactly go as planned -- the only person Jonah finds is a frazzled Sam, who chased after him -- but Jonah's lost backpack saves the day in a twist that allows our geographically challenged pair to finally meet, face to face.

Long before online dating had become de rigueur in America, Nora Ephron boosted romantic morale nationwide with her 1993 film, 'Sleepless In Seattle.' Tom Hanks stars as Sam Baldwin, a widower whose young son, Jonah (Ross Malinger), calls a radio talk show to try to find a new woman for his dad, and convinces Sam to open up on air about how much he misses his late wife. Annie Reed (Meg Ryan), a reporter in Baltimore, hears the interview and is instantly smitten: On a whim after watching the 1957 love-fest 'An Affair to Remember,' she writes to Sam and suggests that, like Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr's classic characters, they meet atop the Empire State Building.

Amid Sam's sudden flood of letters from admirers and would-be wives, it's Annie's missive that catches Jonah's attention. Despite Sam's misgivings, Jonah is determined to unite them, and even sneaks off to New York to find Annie. Of course, the rendez-vous doesn't exactly go as planned -- the only person Jonah finds is a frazzled Sam, who chased after him -- but Jonah's lost backpack saves the day in a twist that allows our geographically challenged pair to finally meet, face to face.

While 'Sleepless' was a box-office success, nabbing the No. 2 spot in earnings during its opening weekend, it received tempered reviews from critics. Rolling Stone's Peter Travers called it "easily the hippest, frankest and funniest date movie around," while New York Times critic Vincent Canby said the movie was "a stunt, but it's a stunt that works far more effectively than anybody in his right mind has reason to expect." Still, the film had unabashed fans in some circles; 'Sleepless in Seattle's' screenplay and original song were both nominated for an Academy Award.



Location as Character: Sam lives on a houseboat in Seattle that becomes the site for his heart-to-heart on the talk show, and for his scenes of romantic yearning. It's where he tells Jonah that the distance between him and Annie is too great to surmount, and it's where he longingly gazes out at fireworks, alone at the railing overlooking the water. Little does Sam know, however, that Annie isn't shying away from the inter-coastal mileage: At one point, the intrepid romantic seeks Sam out on his home turf, and watches him playing with his son on a harbor-side beach near where their home is docked.

The real houseboat and nearby environs were only used for external shots, which helped up the dramatic ante as scenes hopped from Sam's life on one side of the country to Annie's life on the other. The warm and fuzzy moments inside the floating home were actually shot on a sound stage in Seattle.

Historical Significance: Sam Baldwin isn't the only person, fictional or otherwise, who's lived on the houseboat where his scenes were filmed. The boat has been, most recently, the real home of a couple that lived there for 14 years. Built in 1978, it still floats on Seattle's Lake Union, and is one of the biggest house boats there, with 2,720 square feet of space. The floating home features four bedrooms and two bathrooms, and offers views of downtown Seattle.

Directions: Sam's 'Sleepless' house boat is docked on Seattle's Lake Union, off of Westlake Avenue North. From Sea-Tac airport, take S 182 St to WA-518 W. Drive 5.2 miles, then take the WA-99 N/E Marginal Way exit toward 1st Ave S, and rive 5.5 miles on WA-99 N/E Marginal Way S. Turn right at Harrison St., take a left onto Dexter Ave. N. Take a right on Broad St., and then a left onto Westlake Avenue North. Lake Union and its harbor will be on your right.

Visitor Info:
The 'Sleepless' house boat is a private home and not open to the public. For a water view of the house, visitors can also take a Ride the Ducks tour. For reservations and further info, click here.