What she didn't know was that director Ben Affleck was looking for a new face, by Hollywood standards, and Ryan was a stage actor.
"Ben wanted an unknown," Ryan said. "He wanted people to ask him, 'Where did you find that nonactress?' "
Ryan was so natural in the role, folks on the Boston location mistook her for an onlooker.
"The set had barricades out because a lot of the neighbors were standing around watching," Ryan recalled. "When I tried to walk through, a production assistant stopped me. I was a little nervous about doing the accent, so I tried it out on him, saying that I was in the movie working with Ben. All he said was, 'Please stand back.' "
Once the matter was cleared up, the assistant was profusely apologetic.
"I said, 'No, no, you've given me the biggest shot of confidence imagainable!' "
As did her subsequent Oscar nomination, which made Ryan an in-demand actress. Philip Seymour Hoffman makes his directorial debut with the offbeat romance "Jack Goes Boating" (review on Page 41) and made Ryan his first choice to play the female lead. Ryan is also in demand at home, taking care of her 11-month-old daughter. Now that she's a mom, could she play "Gone Baby Gone" the same way? "It's hard to say. I'd like to think I could, but honestly, there's so much joy in my life now . . . it would be hard to let go of that joy and go to the places I needed to go in 'Gone Baby Gone.' "
* On the same day that Britney Spears was in court to learn that her conservatorship will continue, Lindsay Lohan threatened to appear in court if either her mom or dad tried to take control of her money.
* If Snooki can slap her name on a book . . .
Candice Bergen will pen a second memoir as a follow-up to 1984's "Knock Wood."
Simon & Schuster said that Bergen's new memoir will be published in 2012. It will cover her time on "Murphy Brown," as well as the death of her husband, director Louis Malle.
* CNN and Anderson Cooper confirmed to the Hollywood Reporter yesterday that Cooper is starting a daytime talk show. The show will be syndicated for a launch next fall.
"Over the course of the past few years, I've had the opportunity to work on a number of daytime programs," Cooper said. "It's fun and interesting to work in daytime television. The format is unique and you can really go in-depth on a wide range of fascinating and compelling stories. With this new program I hope to relay important information and relate to people and the audience in a completely different way. It's an exciting opportunity to show another side of myself and create something worthwhile and special in daytime."
* With 24/7 Dan Gross vacationing 24/7, a little local news:
Congrats to James Clelend, bartender at Max Brenner Philadelphia (15th off Walnut), who bested 23 area drink mixers to win the bartender competition at Wednesday's Rittenhouse Row Fall Gathering.
In honor of Clelend's win, Max Brenner will offer a special Halloween cocktail, the Drunken Punken Nog, consisting of Cruzan No. 9 with white chocolate ganache and house-made organic-pumpkin purée, garnished with a cinnamon stick and nutmeg on the rim.
* On Oct. 16's debut episode of A&E's "Fix This Kitchen," local celebrity chef Georges Perrier (Le Bec-Fin, 1523 Walnut St.) will help create a dream kitchen makeover in the home of Brian and Shawna Clark, of Northeast Philadelphia. The show airs at 10 p.m.
* Hulk Hogan sued Post Foods in May, claiming that his likeness was being used in a Cocoa Pebbles ad without his permission. The St. Petersburg Times reported Wednesday that the suit had been settled.
That's good because no one wants to imagine the Hulkster as a cereal killer.
Daily News wire services contributed to this report.