Estelle sat at her character’s assigned table. Whatever agita she may have had paled in comparison to Ryan’s. The night prior, the twenty-seven-year-old actor called her co-star to vent her frustrations. “The orgasm scene was worrisome,” Crystal wrote in his 2013 memoir, “because she would have to have one thirty or forty times that day. Which would have tied my all-time junior high record.”
During the first couple takes, Ryan’s apprehension was palpable. “No, Meg,” Reiner instructed, “you gotta go full out.” The director then had Ryan get up from the table so that he could take her seat and, applying his vast knowledge of female arousal, demonstrate how to fake an orgasm. With his mother stationed a few feet away, Reiner proceeded to moan Ooh, ohhh, oh god! and Oh yeah, right there! and Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! while pounding his fists into the table. Crystal, not exactly brandishing the hippest of pop-culture references, described the moment as if he were “on a date with Sebastian Cabot” or “watching Victor Buono eat Thai food.”
“He then had an orgasm that King Kong would have envied,” the actor wrote.
With such a traumatizing moment behind her, Ryan somehow managed to free herself from inhibitions and deliver one over-the-top fake orgasm after the next. A Cheshire cat grin was plastered on Crystal’s face as he watched his co-star completely dominate the sequence that would earn the film its R rating from the MPAA. Reiner fretted that such an animated Ryan might have robbed the oxygen from all the other players in the scene, particularly Estelle’s “I’ll have what she’s having.” That doubt was put to rest during a test screening in the Los Angeles suburbs, where Reiner and Crystal sat next to one another in the back of the theater. “When the line hit,” Crystal said, “the audience went nuts. We both threw our fists in the air.”
Excerpted from “You Talkin’ to Me?”: The Definitive Guide to Iconic Movie Quotes by Brian Abrams, copyright ©2023. Used with permission of Workman, a division of Workman Publishing Co., Inc., a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.