Winona Ryder - Actors and Actresses

Nationality: American. Born: Winona Laura Horowitz in Winona, Minnesota, 29 October 1971. Education: Studied drama at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. Career: Acted on the stage in small theaters, early 1980s; discovered by a talent scout while studying at the American Conservatory Theater and given screen test, 1984; made screen debut in Lucas , 1986; cast as Michael Corleone's daughter in The Godfather: Part III , but dropped out because of overwork, 1989. Awards: Best Actress, Gijon Festival, for Square Dance , 1987; Best Female Lead Independent Spirit Award nomination, for Heathers , 1989; Best Young Actress Starring in a Motion Picture Young Artist Award, for Great Balls of Fire! , 1989; Best Supporting Actress National Board of Review, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture Golden Globe nomination, for Mermaids , 1991; Best Supporting Actress National Board of Review Award, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, for The Age of Innocence , 1993. Address: 350 Park Avenue, #900, New York, NY 10022–6022, U.S.A.

Films as Actress:


Lucas (Seltzer) (as Rina)


Square Dance ( Home Is Where the Heart Is ) (Petrie) (as Gemma)


Beetlejuice (Burton) (as Lydia Deetz); 1969 (Ernest Thompson) (as Beth)


Great Balls of Fire! (McBride) (as Myra Gail Lewis); Heathers ( Lethal Attraction ; Westerberg High ) (Lehmann) (as Veronica Sawyer)


Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael (Abrahams) (as Dinky Bossetti); Mermaids (Richard Benjamin) (as Charlotte Flax); Edward Scissorhands (Burton) (as Kim Boggs)


Night on Earth (Jarmusch) (as Corky)


Bram Stoker's Dracula (Francis Ford Coppola) (as Mina Murray/Elisabeta)


The Age of Innocence (Scorsese) (as May Welland)


The House of the Spirits (August) (as Blanca); Reality Bites (Stiller) (as Lelaina Pierce); Little Women (Armstrong) (as Jo March)


How to Make an American Quilt (Moorhouse) (as Finn Dodd)


The Crucible (Hytner) (as Abigail "Abby" Williams); Looking for Richard (Pacino) (as Lady Anne); Boys (Cochran) (as Patty Vare)


Alien Resurrection (Jean-Pierre Jeunet) (as Annalee Call)


Celebrity (Allen) (as Nola)


Girl, Interrupted (Mangold) (as Susanna Kaysen + exec pr)


Lost Souls (Kaminski) (as Maya Larkin); Autumn in New York (Chen); Tanto per stare insieme ( Just to Be Together ) (Antonioni)


By RYDER: articles—

"Winning Winona," interview with L. Tobey, in Interview (New York), May 1989.

"A Meeting of the Minds," interview with Timothy Leary, in Interview (New York), November 1989.

"Winona Ryder," interview with J. Giles, in Interview (New York), December 1990.

"Winona Ryder Beats the Heat," interview with David Wild, in Rolling Stone (New York), 16 May 1991.

"Devil in Disguise," interview with Brian Case, in Time Out (London), 5 February 1997.

Winona Ryder (bottom) and Sigourney Weaver in Alien Resurrection
Winona Ryder (bottom) and Sigourney Weaver in Alien Resurrection

On RYDER: articles—

Handleman, David, "Hot Actress: After Heathers Will Stardom 'Devirginize' Newcomer Winona Ryder?," in Rolling Stone (New York), 18 May 1989.

Hoban, Phoebe, "Wise Child," in Premiere (New York), June 1989.

Ansen, D., and L. Buckley, "Movies: Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," in Newsweek (New York), 10 July 1989.

Harmetz, Aljean, "On and Off Screen, Winona Ryder Comes of Age," in New York Times , 9 December 1990.

Ostria, V., "Winona Ryder," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), July/August 1991.

Hirschorn, Michael W., "Winona among the Grown-ups," in Esquire (New York), November 1992.

Abramowitz, R., "Neck Romance," in Premiere (New York), December 1992.

Clark, John, filmography in Premiere (New York), December 1992.

Current Biography 1994 , New York, 1994.

Giles, Jeff, "Winona," in Rolling Stone (New York), 10 March 1994.

Campbell, V., and E. Margulies, "All the Right Moves," in Movieline (Escondido), March 1994.

Golden, E., and others, "Playing Favorites," in Movieline (Escondido), May 1994.

Frost, Polly, "The Woman in Winona," in Harper's Bazaar (New York), December 1994.

Allen, Jenny, "Little Woman, Big Star," in Life (New York), December 1994.

Corliss, Richard, "Take a Bow, Winona," in Time (New York), 9 January 1995.

Lee, C., "Starstyle," in Movieline (Escondido), September 1995.

Thomson, D., and others, "Who's the Best Actress in Hollywood?" in Movieline (Escondido), November 1996.

Smith, Rupert, "Little Woman Who Made It Big," in Radio Times (London), 22 February 1997.

Shapiro, M., and A. Vitrano, "Four Stars Who Make Their Own Rules," in Glamour (New York), January 1998.

Pond, S., "The Star Player," in Los Angeles , November 1998.

* * *

At an age when young people are in the throes of starting high school, Winona Ryder was making her screen debut in Lucas. When many teenagers are thinking about who to ask to the senior prom, Ryder was starring in Beetlejuice. And when young adults are finishing college and pondering their futures, Ryder already had appeared on-screen in Heathers , Great Balls of Fire! , Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael , Edward Scissorhands , Mermaids , and Bram Stoker's Dracula. Despite all of these credits, Ryder's career had not yet peaked. She would become one of the rare adolescent actresses to segue into a prominent adult career.

In her early films, Ryder more often than not was cast as an intelligent but essentially ingenuous and alienated young person. In Lucas and Square Dance , she effectively plays sensitive adolescents. Later, she did well as the friendless small-town eccentric in Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael ; the thoughtful, distressed daughter in Mermaids ; and, in particular, the teen who hangs out, albeit uncomfortably, with her high school's princess-shrews and eventually opts for independence in Heathers. But the role which brought her to popular attention was in Tim Burton's Beetlejuice , where she played a self-described "strange and unusual" adolescent with a morbid fashion sense. Not all of Ryder's characters were unconventional; in Edward Scissorhands , she is the otherwise average teen who comes to love an android. Two of her more important roles were in Francis Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula , in which she plays both Elisabeta (who kills herself upon obtaining erroneous news that her beloved, the fifteenth-century Romanian king Vlad the Impaler, had died in battle) and Mina Murray (the fiancée of Jonathan Harker and the love-object of Dracula). In the Los Angeles segment of Jim Jarmusch's Night on Earth , Ryder plays one of her more centered characters: Corky, a rough-around-the-collar type who would much rather be a mechanic than a movie star. Corky's character is contrasted with a chic casting agent who drips Beverly Hills and is wedded to her portable telephone.

Ryder's first truly compelling contemporary "adult" role came in Ben Stiller's Reality Bites , one of the earliest in a mid-1990s cycle of Generation X coming-of-age movies. The conflicts experienced by her character, Lelaina Pierce, mirror the personal and professional frustrations of post-Baby Boomer twentysomethings who grew up in dysfunctional families and are products of American pop culture. Ultimately, it is difficult for Lelaina to "find [her] own identity without having any heroes or role models." She also has come to adulthood in a declining economy. So despite her college diploma, she may not have a white-collar future. In one telling sequence, Lelaina, who was valedictorian of her college graduation class, applies for employment in a fast-food restaurant: the type of job which, under different circumstances, she would have had part-time back in high school. Still, some of the issues with which Lelaina deals are, in their essence, age-old. With whom does she fall in love? Does she sustain a relationship with the yuppie who is flashy and successful but lacking in substance and values? Or does she become involved with the product of grunge culture, who will never buy her a tennis bracelet but is at least honest in his response to the world around him? Ryder offers an attractive performance as Lelaina, capturing all of the character's confusion and frustration.

In her two Oscar-nominated roles to date, Ryder donned period costumes in adaptations of classic American novels. In Martin Scorsese's sumptuously produced but only intermittently engaging The Age of Innocence , based on the book by Edith Wharton, she is the proper young lady whom the old-fashioned lawyer Daniel Day Lewis is engaged to marry. And in Gillian Armstrong's Little Women , based on the Louisa May Alcott classic, she makes a vibrant Jo March, the story's central character. Her follow-up to Little Women was similar in that it too was directed by a woman, and tells the story of the strength in female relationships: Jocelyn Moorhouse's How to Make an American Quilt. As in Reality Bites , Ryder plays a perplexed contemporary twentysomething: Finn Dodd, who is about to be married and who spends a summer at the home of her grandmother and great aunt. There, she discovers truths about friendship and loving relationships from the members of a quilting circle.

During the late 1990s Ryder played a range of roles. She offers a spunky performance as an uncharacteristic villainess, a deceitful young woman who incriminates the married man with whom she is infatuated, in The Crucible , Arthur Miller's political allegory of the McCarthy/HUAC witchhunt. While she is sorely miscast as an action heroine in Alien Resurrection , she is a bewitching presence as an ambitious waitress/wannabe actress in Woody Allen's Celebrity. In Girl, Interrupted , Ryder plays yet another asocial young person, a character who may be directly linked to so many of her earlier roles. Even though she was in her late twenties when she made the film, she is believable as a recent high school graduate whose aimlessness and inability to fit into pre-feminist late 1960s upper-class Boston suburban society results in her being dispatched to a psychiatric hospital with a "borderline personality disorder." In Girl, Interrupted , Ryder displays a canny ability to communicate her character's thoughts and mental state. When given a meaty role—as she was in Little Women, The Crucible , or Girl, Interrupted— Ryder is a pleasure to watch. She remains one of the most accomplished actresses of her generation.

—Rob Edelman

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