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Winona Ryder

Winona Laura Horowitz[1] (born October 29, 1971), better known under her professional name Winona Ryder, is a two-time Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning American actress. She started her career in 1986. Although Ryder made her screen debut in Lucas (1986), her first significant role came in 1988 with Beetlejuice as Lydia, a Goth teenager, in a performance that gained her critical and commercial recognition. After making various appearances in film and television, Ryder continued her career with the cult film Heathers (1989) in a prominent and critically acclaimed performance. Her subsequent roles have not only won her critical praise but numerous film awards. In 2000, Ryder received a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California.[2]

Ryder is known for her relationship with actor Johnny Depp throughout the early 1990s. She also received noteworthy media attention for her participation in the investigation of the kidnapping and murder of Polly Klaas in 1993, who was from Ryder's hometown. Ryder also received worldwide attention after her arrest on December 12, 2001 for shoplifting from a Saks Fifth Avenue store in Beverly Hills, California.

Early life and education

Born Winona Laura Horowitz in Olmsted County, Minnesota, she was named after the nearby city of Winona.[3] She was given her middle name, Laura, because of her parents' friendship with Aldous Huxley's wife, Laura Huxley. Her mother, Cynthia Palmer (née Istas), is an author, as well as a video producer and editor.[3] Her father, Michael Horowitz, is an author, editor, publisher and antiquarian bookseller.[3] Ryder's mother is a Buddhist and her father is an atheist.[4] Regarding her ancestry, Ryder has described herself as "Jewish",[3][5][6] her paternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Russia, and relatives of hers died in the Holocaust. Ryder has one sibling, a younger brother, Yuri, an older half-brother, Jubal, and an older half-sister, Sunyata. Ryder's family friends included her godfather, LSD guru Timothy Leary, and beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.[3]

In 1978, when Ryder was seven years old, she and her family relocated to Rainbow, a commune near Elk, California, where they lived with seven other families on a 300-acre (1.2 km²) plot of land. As the remote property had no electricity or television sets, Ryder began to devote her time to reading and became an avid fan of J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye.[7][3] She developed an interest in acting after her mother showed her a few movies on a screen in the family barn. At age 10, Ryder and her family moved on again, this time to Petaluma, California. During her first week at the Kenilworth Middle School, she was bullied by a group of her peers who mistook her for an effeminate, scrawny boy.[3] As a result, she ended up being homeschooled that year. In 1983, when Ryder was 12, she enrolled at the American Conservatory Theater in nearby San Francisco, where she took her first acting lessons. Ryder graduated from Petaluma High School with a 4.0 GPA in 1989.[8] She has also revealed that she suffers from aquaphobia due to the trauma caused by an incident in which she nearly drowned at age 12.[3] This caused problems when she had to act in some of the underwater scenes in Alien: Resurrection (1997) and the scenes had to be reshot numerous times.[3]


Early works, 1985–1990
In 1985, Ryder sent a videotaped audition, where she recited a monologue from the novel Franny and Zooey, to appear in the film Desert Bloom. She was rejected and the part went to Annabeth Gish.[7][3] Despite her rejection, David Seltzer, a writer and director, soon noticed her talent and cast her in his 1986 film Lucas. When asked how she wanted her name to appear in the credits, she suggested "Ryder" as her surname as a Mitch Ryder album which belonged to her father was playing in the background.[7] Her next movie was Square Dance (1987), where her teenage character creates a bridge between two different worlds — a traditional farm in the middle of nowhere and a large city. Ryder won acclaim for her role, and The Los Angeles Times called her performance in Square Dance "a remarkable debut".[9] Both films, however, failed to gain Ryder any notice, and were only marginally successful commercially. Director Tim Burton decided to cast Ryder in his film Beetlejuice (1988), after being impressed with her performance in Lucas.[10] In the film, she plays gothic teenager Lydia Deetz. Lydia's family moves to a haunted house populated by ghosts played by Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin, and Michael Keaton. Lydia quickly finds herself the only human with a strong empathy toward the ghosts and their situation. The film was a success at the box office, and Ryder's performance and the overall film received mostly positive reviews from critics.[11]

Ryder landed the role of Veronica Sawyer in the 1989 independent film Heathers. The film, a satirical take on teenage life, revolves around Veronica, who is ultimately forced to choose between the will of society and her own heart after her boyfriend (Christian Slater) begins killing popular high school students. Ryder's agent initially begged her to turn the role down, saying the film would "ruin her career".[3] Reaction to the film was mostly lukewarm,[12] but Ryder's performance was critically embraced, with The Washington Post stating Ryder is "Hollywood's most impressive inge'nue [sic] ... Ryder ... makes us love her teen-age murderess, a bright, funny girl with a little Bonnie Parker in her. She is the most likable, best-drawn young adult protagonist since the sexual innocent of Gregory's Girl."[13] The film was a box office flop, yet achieved status as a predominant cult film.[14] Later that year, she starred in Great Balls of Fire!, playing the 13-year-old bride (and cousin) of Jerry Lee Lewis. The film was a box office failure and received largley divided reviews from critics. In April 1989, she played the title role in the music video for Mojo Nixon's "Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant with My Two-Headed Love Child".[15] In 1990, Ryder was selected for four film roles. In Edward Scissorhands (1990), she played the leading female role alongside her then-boyfriend Johnny Depp. The film reunited Tim Burton and Ryder, who had previously worked together on Beetlejuice in 1988. Edward Scissorhands was a significant box office success, grossing US$56 million at the United States box office and received much critical devotion.[16][17] Later that year, she withdrew from a role in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Part III, after traveling to Rome, Italy, for filming due to over-exhaustion.[18] Eventually, Coppola's daughter Sofia Coppola was cast in the role. Ryder's third role was in the family comedy-drama Mermaids (1990), which co-starred Cher and Christina Ricci. Mermaids was a moderate box office success and was embraced critically. Ryder's performance was also acclaimed; critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote: "Winona Ryder, in another of her alienated outsider roles, generates real charisma."[19] For her performance, Ryder received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.[20] Ryder then performed alongside Cher and Christina Ricci in the video for "The Shoop Shoop Song", the theme from Mermaids. Following Mermaids she starred in the lead role in box office flop Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael (1991).


In 1991, Ryder played a young taxi driver who dreams of becoming a mechanic in Jim Jarmusch's Night on Earth. The film was only given a limited release at the box office, but received critical praise.[21] Ryder then starred in the dual roles of Count Dracula's reincarnated love interest Mina Murray and Dracula's past lover Princess Elisabeta, in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992), a project she brought to director Francis Ford Coppola's attention.[3] In 1993, she starred in the melodrama The House of the Spirits, based on Isabel Allende's novel. Ryder played the love interest of Antonio Banderas' character. Principal filming was done in Denmark and Portugal. The film was poorly reviewed and a box office flop, grossing just $6 million on its $40 million budget.[22] Ryder also starred in The Age of Innocence with Michelle Pfeiffer and Daniel Day-Lewis, a film based on a novel by Edith Wharton and helmed by director Martin Scorsese, whom Ryder considers "the best director in the world".[23] Her role in this movie won her a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress[20] as well as an Academy Award nomination in the same category.[24]

Ryder's next role was in the Generation X drama Reality Bites (1994), directed by Ben Stiller, playing a young woman searching for direction in her life. Her performance received acclaim and the studio hoped the film would gross a substantial amount of money, yet it flopped.[25] Bruce Feldman, Universal Pictures' Vice-President of Marketing said: "The media labeled it as a Generation X picture, while we thought it was a comedy with broad appeal."[25] The studio placed TV ads during programs chosen for their appeal to 12–34-year-olds and in interviews Stiller was careful not to mention the phrase "Generation X".[25] In 1994, Ryder was handpicked to play the lead role of Josephine March in Little Women, an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's novel. The film received widespread praise; critic Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that the film was the greatest adaptation of the novel, and also remarked on Ryder's performance: "Ms. Ryder, whose banner year also includes a fine comic performance in 'Reality Bites,' plays Jo with spark and confidence. Her spirited presence gives the film an appealing linchpin, and she plays the self-proclaimed 'man of the family' with just the right staunchness."[26] She also received an Best Actress Oscar nomination the following year.[24] She also made a guest appearance in The Simpsons episode "Lisa's Rival" as Allison Taylor, whose intelligence and over-achieving personality makes her a rival of Lisa's. Her next starring role was in How to Make an American Quilt (1995), an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Whitney Otto, co-starring Anne Bancroft. Ryder plays a college graduate who spends her summer hiatus at her grandmother's property to ponder on her boyfriend's recent marriage proposal. The film was not a commercial success, nor was it popular with critics.[27][28]


Ryder made several film appearances in 1996, the first in Boys. The film failed to become a box office success and attracted mostly negative critical reaction. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times stated that "Boys is a low-rent, dumbed-down version of Before Sunrise, with a rent-a-plot substituting for clever dialogue."[29] Her next role was in Looking for Richard, Al Pacino's documentary on a production of Shakespeare's Richard III, which grossed only $1 million at the box office, but drew moderate critical acclaim.[30][31] She also starred as the lead in The Crucible, alongside Daniel Day-Lewis and Joan Allen. The film, an adaptation of Arthur Miller's play, centered on the Salem witch trials. The film was expected to be a success, considering its budget, but became a large failure.[32] Despite this, it received acclaim critically, and Ryder's performance was lauded, with Peter Travers of Rolling Stone saying, "Ryder offers a transfixing portrait of warped innocence."[33] In December 1996, Ryder accepted a role as a humanoid robot in Alien: Resurrection (1997), alongside Sigourney Weaver, who had appeared in the entire Alien trilogy. Ryder's brother, Suri, was a major fan of the film series, and when asked, she took the role. The film became one of the least successful entries in the Alien film series, but was considered a success as it grossed $161 million worldwide.[34] Weaver's and Ryder's performances drew mostly positive reviews, and Ryder won a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Best Actress. Ryder then starred in Woody Allen's Celebrity (1998), after Drew Barrymore turned down Ryder's role, in an ensemble cast.[3] The film satirizes the lives of several celebrities.

In 1999, she performed in and served as an executive producer for Girl, Interrupted, based on the 1993 autobiography of Susanna Kaysen. The film had been in project and post-production since late 1996, but it took time to surface. Ryder was deeply attached to the film, considering it her "child of the heart".[3] Ryder starred as Kaysen, who has borderline personality disorder and was admitted to a mental hospital for recovery. Ryder starred alongside Whoopi Goldberg and Angelina Jolie. While Ryder was expected to make her comeback with her leading role, the film instead became the "welcome-to-Hollywood coronation" for Jolie,[35] who won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance. In Jolie's acceptance speech, she thanked Ryder.[36] Also in 1999, Ryder was parodied in South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. The following year, she starred in the romantic comedy Autumn in New York, alongside Richard Gere. The film revolves around a relationship between an older man (Gere) and a younger woman (Ryder). Autumn in New York received mixed reviews, but was a commercial success, grossing $90 million at the worldwide box office.[37][38] Ryder then played a nun of a secret society loosely connected to the Roman Catholic Church and determined to prevent Armageddon in Lost Souls (2000), which was a commercial failure. Thus, Ryder refused to do commercial promotion for the film.[3] Later in 2000, she was one of several celebrities who made a small cameo appearance in Zoolander. On October 6, 2000, Ryder received her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, located directly in front of the Johnny Grant building next to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard. She was the 2,165th recipient of this honor.[2]

Hiatus, 2001–2005
Ryder had a moderate hiatus after her shoplifting incident in 2001 (see below). The book Conversations with Woody Allen reports that in 2003 film director Woody Allen wanted to cast Robert Downey Jr. and Ryder in his film Melinda and Melinda, but was unable to do so because "I couldn't get insurance on them ... We couldn't get bonded. The completion bonding companies would not bond the picture unless we could insure them. [...] We were heartbroken because I had worked with Winona before [on Celebrity] and thought she was perfect for this and wanted to work with her again."[39][40]

In 2002, Ryder appeared in two films. The first was a romantic comedy titled Mr. Deeds with Adam Sandler. This was her most commercially successful movie to date, earning over $126 million in the United States alone.[41] She played a cynical reporter for an unscrupulous television program. The second film was the science fiction drama S1m0ne in which she portrayed a glamorous star who is replaced by a computer simulated actress due to the clandestine machinations of a director, portrayed by her Looking For Richard costar Al Pacino.


In 2006, after an extensive hiatus, Ryder appeared in Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly, a science fiction film based on Philip K. Dick's critically acclaimed 1977 novel. Ryder starred alongside Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr, and Woody Harrelson. Live action scenes were transformed with rotoscope software and the film was entirely animated. A Scanner Darkly was screened at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival and the 2006 Seattle International Film Festival. Critics disagreed over the film's merits; Carina Chocano of the Los Angeles Times found the film "engrossing" and wrote that "the brilliance of [the film] is how it suggests, without bombast or fanfare, the ways in which the real world has come to resemble the dark world of comic books."[42] Similarly, Matthew Turner of View London, believing the film to be "engaging" and "beautifully animated", also praised the film for its "superb performances" and original, thought-provoking screenplay.[43] Ryder also recently appeared in the comedy The Darwin Awards, starring alongside Joseph Fiennes. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2006.[44]

Ryder also confirmed in an interview with Entertainment Weekly she is reuniting with Heathers screenwriter Daniel Waters for the surreal black comedy Sex and Death 101 (2007).[45] The story follows the sexual odysseys of successful businessman Roderick Blank, played by Simon Baker, who receives a mysterious e-mail on the eve of his wedding, listing all of his past and future sex partners. "We will be doing a sequel to Heathers next." Ryder stated. "There's Heathers in the real world! We have to keep going!"[45]. In a more recent interview Ryder was quoted as saying on the speculation of a Heathers sequel: "I don't know how much of the movie is official; it's a ways away. But it takes place in Washington and Christian Slater agreed to come back and make an Obi-Wan-type appearance. It's very funny."[46]

Ryder also appeared in David Wain's comedy The Ten, alongside Jessica Alba, Paul Rudd, Justin Theroux, Famke Janssen, Oliver Platt, and Adam Brody. The film centers around ten stories, each of them inspired by one of the Ten Commandments. The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival 2007 on January 10, 2007,[47] with a theatrical release on August 3, 2007. Ryder will play the female lead opposite Wes Bentley and Ray Romano in Geoffrey Haley's offbeat romantic drama The Last Word.[48] She has also signed up to appear as a newscaster in the upcoming movie version of The Informers,[49] will join Robin Wright and Julianne Moore in Rebecca Miller's The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, which is scheduled to start filming in April 2008 in Connecticut,[50] and will appear in Paramount Pictures' and director JJ Abrams's Star Trek (2009), as Spock's mother Amanda Grayson, a role originally played by Jane Wyatt.[51]

Personal life

Ryder has had many high-profile relationships with actors. She was engaged to actor Johnny Depp for three years beginning in July 1990.[52] During their relationship, Depp had a tattoo placed on his arm reading "Winona Forever", which he had altered to "Wino Forever" after their separation.[53] Ryder later had serious relationships with Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner, and actor Matt Damon.[54] Ryder also told W Magazine in a June 2002 issue that she is close friends with comedian and actor Jimmy Fallon.[55] She was also close friends with actress Gwyneth Paltrow, until they reportedly "grew apart" in the late 1990s.[8] She is currently dating Rilo Kiley guitarist Blake Sennett.[56]

Polly Klaas
In 1993, Ryder became involved in the Polly Klaas kidnapping case.[57] Klaas lived in Petaluma, the same town where Ryder grew up. Ryder offered a $200,000 reward for the 12-year-old kidnap victim's safe return.[58] After the girl's death, Ryder starred in the 1994 film adaptation of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and dedicated it to her memory. Little Women was one of Polly's favorite novels.[59]

During a sentencing hearing related to the 2001 shoplifting incident (see below), Ryder's attorney, Mark Geragos, referred to her work with the Polly Klaas Foundation and other charitable causes. In response, Deputy District Attorney Ann Rundle said: "What's offensive to me is to trot out the body of a dead child."[60] Ryder was visibly upset at the accusation and Rundle was admonished by the judge. Outside the courthouse, Polly's father Mark Klaas defended Ryder and expressed outrage at the prosecutor's comments.[60][61]

2001 shoplifting incident

On December 12, 2001, Ryder was arrested on shoplifting charges in Beverly Hills, California; she stood accused of stealing $5,500 worth of designer clothes and accessories at a Saks Fifth Avenue department store.[62][63][64] Los Angeles District Attorney Stephen Cooley produced a team of eight prosecutors. Cooley filed four felony charges against her in what was described by British newspaper The Guardian as a "show-trial".[65] Ryder hired noted celebrity defense attorney Mark Geragos. Negotiations for a plea-bargain failed at the end of summer 2002.[66] As noted by Joel Mowbray from the National Review, the prosecution was not ready to offer the actress what was given to 5,000 other defendants in similar cases, an open door to a no-contest plea on misdemeanor charges.[67] Ryder agreed under signature to pay two Civil Demands, as permitted under California's Statute for Civil Recovery for Shoplifting, from Saks Fifth Avenue that would completely reimburse Saks Fifth Avenue for the stolen and surrendered merchandise while detained in the Security Offices of the Saks Fifth Avenue store, and before she was mirandized and arrested by the Los Angeles Commissioned Police.[68]

During the trial, she was also accused of using drugs without valid prescriptions. Ryder was convicted of grand theft and vandalism, but was acquitted on the third felony charge, burglary.[69] In December 2002, she was sentenced to three years' probation, 480 hours of community service, $3,700 in fines, and $6,355 in restitution to the Saks Fifth Avenue store – and was ordered to attend psychological and drug counseling by the judge.[70] After reviewing Ryder's probation report, Superior Court Judge Elden Fox noted that Ryder served 480 hours of community service and on June 18, 2004, the felonies were reduced to misdemeanors. Ryder remained on probation until December 2005.[71][72]

Year Film Role Director Other notes
1986 Lucas Rina David Seltzer
1987 Square Dance Gemma Dillard Daniel Petrie
1988 1969 Beth Karr Ernest Thompson
Beetlejuice Lydia Deetz Tim Burton
1989 Great Balls of Fire! Myra Gale Lewis Jim McBride
Heathers Veronica Sawyer Michael Lehmann
1990 Mermaids Charlotte Flax Richard Benjamin
Edward Scissorhands Kim Boggs Tim Burton
Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael Dinky Bossetti Jim Abrahams
1991 Night on Earth Corky Jim Jarmusch
1992 Bram Stoker's Dracula Wilhelmina "Mina" Murray/Elisabeta Francis Ford Coppola
1993 The House of the Spirits Blanca Trueba Bille August
The Age of Innocence May Welland Martin Scorsese
1994 Little Women Josephine "Jo" March Gillian Armstrong
Reality Bites Lelaina Pierce Ben Stiller
The Simpsons Allison Taylor Voice, Season 6, Episode 2: Lisa's Rival, television
1995 How to Make an American Quilt Finn Dodd Jocelyn Moorhouse
1996 The Crucible Abigail Williams Nicholas Hytner
Looking for Richard Lady Anne Al Pacino Documentary film
Boys Patty Vare Stacy Cochran
1997 Alien: Resurrection Annalee Call Jean-Pierre Jeunet
1998 Celebrity Nola Woody Allen
1999 Girl, Interrupted Susanna Kaysen James Mangold Also executive producer
2000 Lost Souls Maya Larkin Janusz Kaminski
Autumn in New York Charlotte Fielding Joan Chen
2001 Zoolander Herself Uncredited cameo
Friends Melissa Warburton Season 7, Episode 20: The One with Rachel's Big Kiss, television
2002 S1m0ne Nicola Anders Andrew Niccol
Mr. Deeds Babe Bennett/Pam Dawson Steven Brill
2003 The Day My God Died Narrator Andrew Levine Voice, producer, documentary film
2004 The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things Psychologist Asia Argento Uncredited
2005 Children of the Revolution: Tune Back In Herself Documentary film
2006 The Darwin Awards Siri Finn Taylor
A Scanner Darkly Donna Hawthorne Richard Linklater
2007 The Ten Kelly LaFonda David Wain
Sex and Death 101 Gillian De Raisx Daniel Waters
2008 The Last Word Charlotte Morris Geoffrey Haley
The Informers Cheryl Laine Gregor Jordan post-production
Water Pills Carrie post-production
2009 Star Trek Amanda Grayson JJ Abrams post-production
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee Sandra Rebecca Miller filming

Awards and nominations
Year Award Category Film Result
1990 Golden Globe Award Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture Mermaids Nominated
NBR Award Best Supporting Actress Won
1991 Saturn Award Best Actress Edward Scissorhands Nominated
1992 Saturn Award Best Actress Bram Stoker's Dracula Nominated
1993 Academy Award Best Supporting Actress The Age of Innocence Nominated
BAFTA Award Best Supporting Actress Nominated
Golden Globe Award Best Supporting Actress Won
NBR Award Best Supporting Actress Won
1994 Academy Award Best Actress Little Women Nominated
KCFCC Award Best Actress Won
1997 Saturn Award Best Supporting Actress Alien: Resurrection Nominated
2000 Razzie Award Worst Screen Couple Autumn in New York Nominated
2002 Razzie Award Worst Actress Mr. Deeds Nominated

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