‘While You Were Sleeping’ Producer Says Bill Pullman Wanted to Quit After 1st Table Read

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Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman made movie magic with While You Were Sleeping — but the iconic rom-com almost fell apart completely.

During the Wednesday, February 15, episode of the “Hollywood Gold” podcast, one of the film’s producers, Jonathan Glickman, revealed that Pullman, 70, initially wanted to quit the 1995 film after the first read-through was a total bust.

Glickman called the table read, which took place in Chicago just weeks before production began, one of the “worst” of “all time,” noting that the script “tanked” when the actors read it aloud in the room.

“Nothing got a laugh, The energy was dead,” he said. “We had these incredible professional actors there, real pros — it was painful. And we knew it didn't work."

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At the time, the script had gone through multiple revisions, but still wasn’t “working,” Glickman claimed. “The script was kind of a cut-and-paste of the stuff that the original guys had written and the new person had written,” he explained. “And then [the director] Jon [Turteltaub], I think, did sort of a polish to make it make sense."

While You Were Sleeping follows lonely transit worker Lucy (Bullock) after she saves her longtime crush, Peter (Peter Gallagher), from the path of an oncoming train. When he falls into a coma, and Lucy lets his family believe she’s his fiancée, things begin to get complicated as she falls for his brother, Jack (Pullman).

According to Glickman, Pullman and Gallagher, 68, approached him with the idea of switching roles as a potential way to fix the movie. Glickman said Pullman even told him he wanted to quit the film entirely – but his team wouldn’t let him.

"Bill Pullman said — he had just quit a movie that he was making before — said his agent said he wasn't allowed to quit another movie,” he said, “otherwise he would quit this movie.”

Luckily, original writers Daniel G Sullivan and Fredric Lebow hopped back on board to punch the script up for its theatrical release, crafting the memorable story fans still love today. The film went on to make $182 million at the global box office against an estimated $17m budget and earned Bullock a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical.

Pullman’s doubts, however, weren’t the first casting issues the movie faced. After Disney’s Hollywood Pictures acquired the script in 1994, it struggled to find interested actors. Meg Ryan was one of the first to turn down the role, as Lucy was initially meant to be the one who falls into a coma.

While You Were Sleeping Producer Jonathan Glickman Says Bill Pullman Wanted to Quit the Film After the 1st Table Read 323
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“Nobody liked it,” Sullivan shared during an April 2020 oral history with The Washington Post. “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.”

Harrison Ford, Geena Davis, Nicole Kidman and Demi Moore were among the other stars who didn’t accept, for which Bullock is eternally grateful.

“I believe [I got the part] because Demi Moore couldn’t do it, I got it,” Bullock said. “So, I’m grateful to Demi Moore every single day.”

Pullman, for his part, told the Washington Post that he didn’t consider romantic comedies his “turf” at the time. He confessed he was originally “embarrassed” about taking on the role but was impressed by the “classic story,” and with Bullock.

“I remember being down in the fitness room at our hotel with Sandra, and we were counting crunches with each other,” he recalled. “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.’”

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Bullock, meanwhile, called her time filming While You Were Sleeping the “most fun” she’s ever had.

“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,” she said. “Everything about that experience was magical.”