Winona Ryder (born Winona Laura Horowitz; October 29, 1971) is an American actress and film producer. She is the recipient of a Golden Globe Award and has been nominated for two Academy Awards, a BAFTA Award, and four Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Ryder at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival
October 29, 1971
Winona, Minnesota, U.S.
|Home town||Petaluma, California, U.S.|
|Partner(s)||Johnny Depp |
Scott Mackinlay Hahn
Following her film debut in Lucas (1986), Ryder came to attention with her performance in Tim Burton's Beetlejuice (1988). She rose to prominence with starring roles in such films as Heathers (1988), Mermaids (1990), Edward Scissorhands (1990), and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992). Her career was further enhanced when she garnered critical acclaim and two consecutive Academy Award nominations for her portrayal of socialite May Welland in Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence (1993) and of Jo March in the film adaptation of Little Women (1994). Her other films during this period were Reality Bites (1994), How to Make an American Quilt (1995), Alien Resurrection (1997), and Girl, Interrupted (1999), which she also executive produced.
In 2002, Ryder appeared in the critically panned box office hit Mr. Deeds, following which her career saw a downturn, and she took a sabbatical from films. In 2009, she returned to the screen after a brief hiatus, appearing in high-profile films such as Star Trek. In 2010, she was nominated for two Screen Actors Guild Awards: as the lead actress in When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story and as part of the cast of Black Swan. She also reunited with Burton for Frankenweenie (2012). She currently stars as Joyce Byers in the Netflix series Stranger Things, for which she has received Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations.
Ryder's personal life has attracted significant media attention. Her relationship with Johnny Depp in the early 1990s and a 2001 arrest for shoplifting were both constant subjects of tabloid journalism. She has been open about her personal struggles with anxiety and depression. In 2000, Ryder received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, honoring her legacy in the film industry.
Winona Laura Horowitz was born in Winona, Minnesota, on October 29, 1971, the daughter of Cynthia Palmer (née Istas) and Michael D. Horowitz. Her mother is an author, video producer and editor, and her father is an author, editor, publisher and antiquarian bookseller. He also worked as an archivist for psychedelic guru Dr. Timothy Leary (who was Ryder's godfather). Her father is Jewish (his family emigrated from Russia and Romania), and Ryder has described herself as Jewish. Most of her family on his side were killed in the Holocaust. Her father's family was originally named "Tomchin" but took the surname "Horowitz" when they immigrated to the United States.
Named after the city of Winona, she was given her middle name, Laura, because of her parents' friendship with Laura Huxley, writer Aldous Huxley's wife. Her stage name derives from Mitch Ryder, a soul and rock singer of whom her father was a fan. Ryder's father is an atheist and her mother is a Buddhist. Ryder has one full sibling, a younger brother, Urie (named in honor of the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin), and two half-siblings from her mother's prior marriage: an older half-brother, Jubal Palmer, and an older half-sister, Sunyata Palmer. Ryder's family friends were her godfather, Timothy Leary, the Beat Movement poets Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and the science fiction novelist Philip K. Dick. In 1978, when Ryder was seven years old, she and her family relocated to Rainbow, a commune near Elk, Mendocino County, California, where they lived with seven other families on a 300-acre (120 ha) 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 The Catcher in the Rye. 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 to Petaluma, California. During her first week at Kenilworth Junior High, she was bullied by children who mistook her for an effeminate boy. Ryder's experiences being bullied continued into high school, when she achieved her early success in Beetlejuice. Ryder commented that "I remember thinking, 'Ooh, it's [Beetlejuice], like, the number-one movie. This is going to make things great at school, but it made things worse. They called me a witch." In 1983, when Ryder was 12, she enrolled at the American Conservatory Theater in nearby San Francisco, where she took her first acting lessons. During the same year she nearly drowned, which caused her to develop aquaphobia. This psychological trauma caused later problems with the underwater scenes in Alien Resurrection (1997), some of which had to be reshot numerous times. In 1989, Ryder graduated from Petaluma High School with a 4.0 GPA.
Denise Di Novi, producer of Heathers
In 1985, Ryder sent a videotaped audition, where she recited a monologue from the novel Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger, to appear in the film Desert Bloom. Although the role went to Annabeth Gish, writer/director David Seltzer noticed her talent and cast her in his film Lucas (1986), about a boy called Lucas (Corey Haim) and his life at high school. Shot in the summer of 1985, the film co-starred Charlie Sheen and Kerri Green with Ryder playing Rina, one of Lucas's friends at school. When asked how she wanted her name to appear in the credits, she suggested "Ryder" as her surname because a Mitch Ryder album that belonged to her father was playing in the background.
Her next film 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." Both films, however, 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. In the film, she plays goth 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.
Ryder landed the role of Veronica Sawyer in the independent film Heathers (1988). 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, played by Christian Slater, begins killing off popular high school students. Ryder's agent initially begged her to turn the role down, saying the film would "ruin her career". Reaction to the film was largely positive, and Ryder's performance was critically embraced, with The Washington Post stating Ryder is "Hollywood's most impressive ingénue...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." The film was a box office flop, yet achieved status as a predominant cult film. 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 divided reviews from critics. Also in 1988 Ryder appeared in the film 1969 where she played the character Beth, the girlfriend of Kiefer Sutherland and sister of Robert Downey, Jr.—protagonists, protesters and flower children against the Vietnam War.
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."
In 1990, Ryder was selected for four film roles. She played the leading female role alongside her then-boyfriend Johnny Depp in the fantasy film Edward Scissorhands. 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$86 million and receiving much critical devotion. Later that year, she withdrew from the role of Mary Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Part III (after traveling to Rome for filming) due to exhaustion. Eventually, Coppola's daughter Sofia Coppola was cast in the role. Ryder's ninth role was in the family comedy-drama Mermaids (1990), which co-starred Cher, Bob Hoskins and Christina Ricci. Mermaids was a moderate box office success and was embraced critically. Ryder's performance was acclaimed; critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote: "Winona Ryder, in another of her alienated outsider roles, generates real charisma." For her performance, Ryder received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Ryder then performed alongside Cher and Christina Ricci in the video for "The Shoop Shoop Song", the theme from Mermaids. Following Mermaids, she had the lead role in Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael, a film about an adopted child, Dinky Bossetti, played by Ryder. The film co-starred Jeff Daniels and was deemed a flop due to its poor showing at the box office.
In 1991, Ryder played a young taxicab driver in Jim Jarmusch's Night on Earth. The film was given a limited release, but received critical praise. 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. 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's 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.
Ryder 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". In the film, Ryder plays May Welland, the fiancée of Newland Archer (Day-Lewis). The film, set in the 1870s, was principally filmed in New York and Paris. Her role in this movie won her a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress as well as an Academy Award nomination in the same category. Although not a commercial success, it received critical praise. Vincent Canby in the New York Times wrote; 'Ms Ryder is wonderful as this sweet young thing who's hard as nails, as much out of ignorance as of self-interest.' Ryder was set to star in Broken Dreams with actor River Phoenix. The project was put on hold due to his untimely death in 1993.
Orlando Sentinel film critic Jay Boyar discussing Reality Bites
Ryder's next role was in the Generation X drama Reality Bites (1994), directed by Ben Stiller, in which she played 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 did not make as much money as expected. 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." The studio placed TV ads during programs chosen for their appeal to 12- to 34-year-olds and in interviews Stiller was careful not to mention the phrase "Generation X."
In 1994, Ryder played 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 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." She received a Best Actress Oscar nomination the following year.
She 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, Maya Angelou, and Ellen Burstyn. Ryder plays a college graduate who spends her summer hiatus at her grandmother's property to ponder her boyfriend's recent marriage proposal. The film almost grossed four times its budget and received mixed to positive reviews from critics.
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." Her next role was in Looking for Richard, Al Pacino's meta-documentary on a production of Shakespeare's Richard III, which grossed only $1 million at the box office, but drew moderate critical acclaim. She starred in The Crucible with 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. 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."
In December 1996, Ryder accepted a role as an android in Alien Resurrection (1997), alongside Sigourney Weaver, who had appeared in the entire Alien trilogy. Ryder's brother, Uri, 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 irrespective of the film series was considered a success as it grossed $161 million worldwide. 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. The film satirizes the lives of several celebrities. She later appeared in the music video for Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's Talk About the Blues, which was on their sixth studio album ACME. Ryder also appeared on the cover artwork of its follow up album Xtra-Acme USA, which was made using a screenshot from the previously mentioned music video.
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 production since late 1996, but took time to begin principal photography. Ryder was deeply attached to the film, considering it her "child of the heart." She starred as Kaysen, who has borderline personality disorder and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for recovery. Appearing alongside Angelina Jolie and Whoopi Goldberg, Ryder was expecting to make her comeback playing leading roles. The film instead became the "welcome-to-Hollywood coronation" for Jolie, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance. Jolie thanked Ryder in her acceptance speech. The same year, Ryder was parodied in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.
The following year, she starred in the melodrama 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. 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. Ryder refused to do commercial promotion for the film. Later in 2000, she was one of several celebrities who made small cameo appearances in Zoolander (released in 2001). 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.
Ryder had a 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."
In 2002, Ryder appeared in two movies, filmed before her arrest. 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. The film was not a critical success, however; film critic Philip French described it as a terrible film, saying that "remakes are often bad, but this one was particularly bad." The second film was the science fiction drama Simone 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 July 2003, she was number 183 on VH1's and People magazine's "200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons" countdown list.
In 2006, following her hiatus, Ryder appeared in Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly, a film adaptation of Philip K. Dick's well-received science fiction novel A Scanner Darkly. 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." Matthew Turner of View London, believing the film to be "engaging" and "beautifully animated," praised the film for its "superb performances" and original, thought-provoking screenplay." Ryder appeared in the comedy The Darwin Awards with Joseph Fiennes. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2006.
Ryder reunited with Heathers screenwriter Daniel Waters for the surreal black comedy Sex and Death 101 (2007). 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.
Ryder appeared in David Wain's comedy The Ten. The film centers around ten stories, each inspired by one of the Ten Commandments. The film debuted at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival on January 10, 2007, with a theatrical release on August 3, 2007. Ryder played the female lead opposite Wes Bentley and Ray Romano in Geoffrey Haley's 2008 offbeat romantic drama The Last Word. In 2009, she starred as a newscaster in the movie version of The Informers.
Ryder appeared in director J. J. Abrams's Star Trek, as Spock's human mother Amanda Grayson. Several media outlets have noted her return to the box office and upcoming roles as a remarkable comeback. She starred alongside Robin Wright and Julianne Moore in Rebecca Miller's The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, released on February 9, 2009 at the 59th Berlin International Film Festival, with a limited US release scheduled for November 2009. On June 2, 2009, Entertainment Weekly reported that in an interview with Ryder in Empire magazine, she revealed that she and Christian Slater will reprise their roles in a sequel to Heathers. In 2010, Ryder played Beth McIntyre, an aging ballet star in Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan. She also was cast in an independent film, Stay Cool, alongside Hilary Duff, Mark Polish and Chevy Chase. The same year, she also starred as Lois Wilson in the television movie, When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story.
Ryder appeared in a leading role in the film, The Dilemma, directed by Ron Howard and previously called Cheaters and What You Don't Know. The film, which also starred Vince Vaughn and Kevin James, began filming in Chicago in May 2010 and was released in January 2011. In 2011, she was cast as Deborah Kuklinski, the wife of contract killer Richard Kuklinski, in the thriller The Iceman. In 2012, Tim Burton directed her in the music video for The Killers' single, "Here with Me". She was reunited with Tim Burton for a role in the animated 3D feature film Frankenweenie, released in October 2012, and appeared alongside James Franco in the action thriller Homefront (2013).
In 2013, Ryder starred in a segment of the Comedy Central television series Drunk History called "Boston". She played religious protester Mary Dyer, opposite stern Puritan magistrate John Endicott, played by Michael Cera. She has also appeared in the American miniseries Show Me a Hero, playing the president of the Yonkers City Council, and the British television film Turks & Caicos. In 2015, she starred alongside Peter Sarsgaard in the biographical drama film Experimenter, playing the wife of Stanley Milgram. Experimenter was released to positive reviews in October 2015. Aside from acting, she was also announced as the face of Marc Jacobs.
Since 2016, Ryder has starred in the Netflix science fiction-horror series Stranger Things, created by The Duffer Brothers and released to stream online on July 15, 2016. She plays single mother Joyce Byers, whose 12-year-old son vanishes mysteriously. The show and her performance has received critical acclaim, with many critics praising its homages to 1980s genre films. She went on to star in Season 2 of the series, which was released on October 27, 2017, and in Season 3, released on July 4, 2019.
In 2018, she starred in the film Destination Wedding, alongside Keanu Reeves. They had previously worked together in three other movies (Bram Stoker's Dracula, A Scanner Darkly, and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee), portraying love interests in the first two films.
Ryder was engaged to actor Johnny Depp for three years beginning in July 1990. She met him at the Great Balls of Fire! premiere in June 1989, and they began dating two months later. After their breakup, she dated Soul Asylum band member Dave Pirner for several years, staying "very close" even after their breakup. She dated Matt Damon in the late 1990s to early 2000s, and she has been in a relationship with Scott Mackinlay Hahn since 2011.
In 1993, Ryder offered a reward in the hope that it would lead to the return of kidnapped child Polly Klaas. 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. After the girl's death, Ryder starred as Jo in the 1994 film adaptation of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and dedicated her performance to Klaas's memory, as Little Women was one of Klaas's favorite novels.
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." Ryder was visibly upset at the accusation and Rundle was admonished by the judge. Outside the courthouse, Polly's father Marc Klaas defended Ryder and expressed outrage at the prosecutor's comments.
Ryder has been involved in philanthropic work for the American Indian College Fund since her 20s, which sends low income Native Americans to universities.
On December 12, 2001, Ryder was arrested on shoplifting charges in Beverly Hills, California, accused of stealing $5,500 worth of designer clothes and accessories at a Saks Fifth Avenue department store. She signed two civil demands in the security offices of the store, before she was arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department, binding her to pay for the stolen and surrendered merchandise, as permitted under California's Statute for Civil Recovery for Shoplifting. Los Angeles District Attorney Stephen Cooley produced a team of eight prosecutors and filed four felony charges against her. Ryder hired noted celebrity defense attorney Mark Geragos. Negotiations failed to produce a plea bargain at the end of summer 2002. Joel Mowbray from National Review noted that the prosecution was not ready to offer her a no-contest plea on misdemeanor charges.
She was accused of using drugs during the trial, including oxycodone, diazepam, and Vicodin without valid prescriptions. She was convicted of grand theft, shoplifting, and vandalism but was acquitted on the felony charge of burglary. In December 2002, she was sentenced to three years of probation, 480 hours of community service, $3,700 in fines, and $6,355 in restitution to the Saks Fifth Avenue store, and she was ordered to attend psychological and drug counseling. Superior Court Judge Elden Fox reviewed Ryder's probation report and noted that she served 480 hours of community service, and the felonies were reduced to misdemeanors on June 18, 2004. She remained on probation until December 2005.
Ryder explained to Interview that the incident occurred during a difficult time in her life when she was clinically depressed. She also stated that the heavy pain-killing medication that a physician practicing quackery had prescribed for her significantly clouded her judgment. The doctor who prescribed the medication was Jules Mark Lusman, who subsequently had his medical license revoked by the Medical Board of California for unethically catering to "the demands of wealthy and/or famous drug-seekers for prescription narcotics which would otherwise have to be obtained on the street".
Awards and nominations
|1993||The Age of Innocence||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|1994||Little Women||Best Actress||Nominated|
|1993||The Age of Innocence||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
Golden Globe Awards
|1991||Mermaids||Best Supporting Actress||Nominated|
|1993||The Age of Innocence||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|2016||Stranger Things||Best Actress in a Drama||Nominated|
|1996||The Diary of a Young Girl||Best Spoken Word Album for Children||Nominated|
Screen Actors Guild Awards
|1995||How to Make an American Quilt||Best Performance by a Cast||Nominated|
|2010||When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story||Best Actress in a TV Movie or Miniseries||Nominated|
|Black Swan||Best Performance by a Cast||Nominated|
|2016||Stranger Things||Best Actress in a Drama||Nominated|
|Best Ensemble in a Drama||Won|
|2017||Best Ensemble in a Drama||Nominated|
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Born in 1971 to two writers in a farmhouse near Winona, Minnesota, Ryder had a rather unconventional childhood.
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