Is While You Were Sleeping the most deranged rom-com ever?

But, much as the end of the age of the dinosaurs witnessed a flourish of gonzo big lizards with weird horns and too many teeth, so the heyday of theTruly Bonkers Romcom was dominated by grotesque, lumbering date movies. And then came the great extinction event as cinema-goers had a messy public break-up with the genre, fleeinginsteadinto the arms of superheroes and prestige TV. In While Your Were Sleeping, Bullock plays Lucy, a lonely ticket-station attendant working for the Chicago public transit system. Lovelorn Lucy maintains the ruse even as he wakes and an actual fiance (Ally Walker) emerges from the woodwork. But then, having fallen in love with the mysterious stranger’s scrappy, sarcastic brother (Bill Pullman) while Peter was sleeping, Lucy ditches her former crush and heads into the sunset with his sibling. Pretty Woman had already cast Julia Roberts as a prostitute falling in love with Richard Gere’s creepy businessman who, by dint of his wealth and status, is clearly in a position of authority over her. In the 1987 classic Overboard, Goldie Hawn is a heiress who suffers amnesia and is essentially enslavedby Kurt Russell’s blue-collar knuckle-dragger as a homemaker and mother to his children. Later, Richard Curtis’s Love Actually (a different decade but still very much a Truly Bonkers Romcom) would feature Andrew Lincoln as a charming underdog stalking his best friend’s wife. And My Best Friend’s Wedding would star Julia Roberts as a sociopath trying to prise her closest chum away from his fiancee (Cameron Diaz as a character whose mortal transgression is that she isbubbly and demonstrative). Clueless’s happy ending, meanwhile, has Alicia Silverstone’s Cher falling in love with her brother in the form of a baby-faced Paul Rudd (alright, her step-brother– but still). It also insists on swaddling Bullock in so many layers of luxuriant knitwear Elle magazine dubbed it “one of the only movies to devote two full hours to creating a visual mood board for the conceptof staying in bed all day”. They take her into their hearts so that when Peter wakes with no memory of the love of his life, they insist it is temporary insomnia (her secret is known only by Peter’seccentric godfather, who keeps schtum). Lebow had, for his part, washed dishes and manned an information desk at the Pritikin Centre, an upscale Miami spa frequented by the rich and famous. Such was their desperation to get a foot in the door of Hollywood that he and Sullivan once anonymously slipped a script into a postal slot at the spa belonging to comedian and producer Rodney Dangerfield. “The most humiliating was when I pitched something that was obviously overly sentimental, and the two executives just burst into hysterics,” Lebow told the Los Angeles Times in 1995. Then it’s no longer predatory, it’s funny.” They were taken under the wing of producer Arthur Sarkissian (later to strike gold with the Rush Hour series). With the gender of the comatose character changed to male, he saw potential – and paid these two unknowns ,000 to write a script. By early 1994, a fully fledged bidding war had broken out for Coma Guy, with Paramount ultimately paying in the high six figures. Gallery: The most essential rom-coms of the '90s (Stars Insider) If While You Were Sleeping was a big break for Lebow and Sullivan, it was also a huge opportunity for director Jon Turteltaub. Matthew McConaughey auditioned for the Pullman part, but the producers found his thick Texas accent offputting. Enter Sandra Bullock, not quite yet cinema’s sweetheart but a name to watch on the back of Demolition Man, in which she’d held her own against Sylvester Stallone, and her role opposite Keanu Reeves in Speed. “Sandra contacted the studio and said it was just the kind of thing she wanted to do, that she could relate to so much of it – especially the loneliness, the importance of family,” said Sullivan to Buzzfeed. He was appropriately slick and handsome – the original of the suave businessman species later exemplified by Mr Big in Sex and the City – and those eyebrows should have had their own multi-picture deal. However, his key attribute, it would turn out, was his ability todoze off on set, which made the scenes in which he lies comatose more authentic. Nobody questioned the fact that Bullock’s character spends chunks of the movie lusting over a man clinging to life in an ICU ward. “A shy heroine in the gorgeous-wallflower tradition,” said The New York Times, “She drowns in oversized clothing as Annie Hall did and seems in a perpetual state of comic dishevelment.” Such observations did little to derail While You Were Sleeping, which earned m from a budget of m. Bullock duly went on to become one of the brightest stars of the ensuing decade. Those films have their fans and provide an alternative to audiences seeking escapism that doesn’t involve superheroes slapping one another to a pulp.