The 56-year-old star, who last worked in 2016's "Ithaca" which was her directorial debut, said she distanced herself from acting as she wanted to "figure out" life, E! News reported.
Gwyneth Paltrow, who was in conversation with Ryan at her 'In Goop Health' event, asked the actor if she was fine with being called 'America's Sweetheart' - a tag she earned after working in rom-coms such as "When Harry Met Sally", "French Kiss", "Sleepless in Seattle", "You've Got Mail" and "Kate & Leopold".
To which Ryan replied, "For the most part, I had a lot of fun. I never wanted to be an actress. The whole idea of being a famous person... I felt like a witness to, I didn't feel exactly in it, and I think that was a really good thing. I felt like a student of it in a way, or that I was watching it in an anthropological way.
"When you're a famous person, there's a certain degree of blankness that needs to happen so that people can project on you. Despite what you may think, people don't really want to know all that much about you. They want to imagine the best or the worst. So when you're caught in that, it really is interesting because you get reactions that have almost nothing to do with you and some that have everything to do with you..."
The actor added when she was labelled, she did not even know what being 'America's Sweetheart' meant.
"Nora Ephron's (her frequent collaborator) parents wrote scripts in old Hollywood and there was such a thing as America's Sweetheart in the '40s and she decided to say that about me one day and I remember thinking, 'Is that good?'... It doesn't necessarily imply that you're smart or sexual or complicated or anything, it's a label. And what can a label do but guess at you?" she said.
Ryan said over a period of time she realised she was being "very reactive instead of proactive".
"I didn't really aim to be an actor, I was a journalism major at school, and a curious person, and I wanted to go back out into the world and figure out who I was - am - in relationship to other things and other people and other environments," she said.
The actor duo previously worked together in the 1993 film "Flesh and Bone".
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