Winona Ryder in Elle: “I’m told I’m not the ingenue anymore”


As you probably know by now, Winona Ryder has a smaller, supporting part in Black Swan. Winona plays the principal dancer who is on her way out – Natalie Portman’s character replaces her. Winona is supposed to be very, very good in the film, and she’s benefiting from the good reviews. She’s in the midst of some kind of career comeback, only this one will probably stick. Anyway, Winona has being press in support of the film, and she gave an interview to Elle Magazine, in addition to doing a somewhat creepy black-and-white photo shoot for the mag as well (full interview here, and the slideshow is here). Here are the highlights from the interview:

Elle on Ryder’s performance in Black Swan: Ryder can’t be on-screen for more than 20 minutes—her role lands somewhere between cameo and supporting actress. And yet, as pallid as ever, with impossibly dark eyes that dominate her valentine-shaped face, she manages to make her presence seem big. The movie wouldn’t have the same palpable tension without her. It might be that the metacasting—a real-life former ingenue playing a former ingenue—is simply effective. But there’s a potent alchemy at work that is Ryder’s alone. When she appears in Black Swan, it’s impossible not to be awash in nostalgia for her charmingly twisted, compulsively watchable films (even in Beetle Juice, her all-in-black teen ghost whisperer made Ryder a heroine for legions of goth-positive girls). That, combined with her stirringly executed performance (there’s a scene in which Ryder takes a nail file to those perfectly hollowed out cheeks that will haunt anyone with a heartbeat for days), makes it difficult not to want more of her. Even Aronofsky, who had Ryder on set for less than two weeks, felt the pull of her legacy. “There’s one scene with her, where I think I did 20 or 30 takes, which is a lot,” he says. “But the reason I did so many is because I couldn’t believe that was all [the time] I was going to get with Winona Ryder. I really just wanted to keep working with her.”

On her upbringing: Her upbringing undoubtedly shaped her: Her parents, stalwarts of the San Francisco counterculture, hung with Allen Ginsberg and John Lennon. Ryder’s father, Michael Horowitz, is a rare-books dealer and Timothy Leary’s archivist. “My dad just gave me [Leary’s] watch for my birthday,” she says. “It’s called the Borel Kaleidoscope; it’s, like, this interesting kind of watch that when you look at it, you can stare at it forever—it moves in this weird way.”

On reading real books: She’s a voracious reader (both Mom and Dad are writers) and begins a lot of her sentences with “Have you ever read that book?” As an avid collector of first editions, she’s a big believer in “paper and pen” and writing letters, and has yet to use the iPad Ron Howard recently gave her after wrapping this month’s date movie The Dilemma.

On the Internet: “I don’t use the Internet, but apparently you can find out everything on it,” she says sounding genuinely bewildered. “I have my e-mail on my BlackBerry, and that’s about it. I’ve never read a blog, ever. I feel like it’s taking away that great anticipation of seeing a movie. It used to be you’d hear, like, Al Pacino was making a movie, and you wouldn’t know anything about it. And nowadays, you know it all, like how much [the actors] are being paid. I would hate to see a picture of me and the caption reads, ‘Is she worth it?’ ”

On her disappearing act from film for a few years: Ryder sees it as a self-inflicted dry spell. “If I don’t relate to the [project], even if it’s something that I should do, it’s hard for me to say yes,” she says. “I’m the type who’d rather not work than work on something I’m not into. I’ve done that a couple of times, and I feel like I can totally see it in my performance.”

Can she say which films? “No, but it’s kind of obvious.” She laughs. “I mean, there’s a couple of times that I did it, for the, you know, paycheck. Even when I was younger—I remember I did this movie that wasn’t good, called 1969. I totally did it ’cause I could get out of school. I can see it in even great actors’ performances, when they’re phoning it in.”

Aging as an actress: “I did relate to Beth [in Black Swan] on a certain level,” she says. “Just that thing of, you know, when I’m told I’m not the ingenue anymore. And now I’m 39. I remember when I was younger, I couldn’t wait to be older, because I was always the kid on the set, I was always younger than everyone else. And now I’m older than a lot of the people I work with. I’ve been doing this for 25 years, which is so strange. I was watching TV, and there was this oldies-but-goodies film fest, and Lucas came on. I was like, Oh my God, I’m an oldie!”

Winona chased the part in Ron Howard’s The Dilemma (with Vince Vaughn): These days, she seems more willing to explore new territory and isn’t afraid to hustle for something she wants. This month, Ryder plays Kevin James’ cheating wife, who’s caught in the act by her husband’s best bro Vince Vaughn, in the Ron Howard comedy The Dilemma. “She definitely chased it,” Howard says. “She was really willing to come in and read with Vince, to see what it all felt like. And it was great when somebody of her stature volunteers that sort of thing. We pretty much cast her on the spot.”

On meeting men who used to crush on her: “I remember being at this bar called Tosca in San Francisco, and I met this guy one night. He was really cute, and we were talking, and then, like, he just said something about how he had always had a crush on me. And I was suddenly mistrustful about why he was talking to me. I wanted to be just a normal girl flirting with a normal guy. It’s like you meet people, and they know this stuff about you. It’s why you want to meet somebody who’s in the same business, only because they understand more. But you don’t necessarily want to be with another actor.”

On having babies: Ryder says she’s not seeing anyone seriously now but has thought about what course her career might take when she, “knock on wood,” has kids. “I would at least take a couple of years off.” Just don’t expect her to disappear altogether.

A Sean Penn story: “I remember when I was about 18,” she says, pausing for a moment. “Sean Penn made a bet with me. He had just directed his first movie, and he’s like, ‘By the time you’re 30, I will bet you $500 that you’ll be sick of acting.’ I’m still waiting to collect, because I’m not.”

[From Elle]

It is kind of amazing to think that Winona was “punished” by Hollywood for that shoplifting incident, when so many people have done so much worse and still had sizeable careers. Was it just the shoplifting incident, or was there more to it? I’m a fan of that era of gossip (late 1990s/early 2000s), and I seem to remember that Winona’s issues weren’t solely about kleptomania. That being said, she does seem lucid and happy and “together” now, so more power to her. I’m happy to see her again.


NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 29: (L-R) Winona Ryder, Vincent Cassel and Mila Kunis attend IFP's 20th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards at Cipriani, Wall Street on November 29, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for IFP)


Photos courtesy of Elle. Elle’s slideshow here.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

45 Responses to “Winona Ryder in Elle: “I’m told I’m not the ingenue anymore””

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Kmat says:

    I haven’t seen Winona looking so beautiful in years.

  2. Samigirl says:

    She looks beautiful. Glad to see her doing well!

  3. brin says:

    She’s beautiful. I think she was open about being depressed or having some kind of mental issue. If anything she should be applauded for her honesty & uniqueness….not “punished”.

  4. fitzcaraldo says:

    i love her unconditionally.

  5. Vi says:

    i love love love winona ryder and i really hope this come back sticks because i miss her from the movies. it’s weird to think the last really big movie she did was Girl Interrupted and she should have got better work from that. i think she’s talked before about having mental health problems like depression so maybe her hiatus was more about being a problem on set rather than being punished for shoplifting? hard to imagine being motivated to work on set if you’re severely depressed right?

  6. tuscan sun says:

    I honestly think she stopped getting parts because she’s not very talented. Her acting ability is very weak and always has been. There was a lot of hype around her in the 90′s but it was because she was beautiful. Her talent never, never lived up to her hype. Once she started getting older (not an ingenue anymore) and there was some scandal attached to her name, there really was no reason for people to keep offering her projects because there was no real talent to make make it worth their while.

  7. lin234 says:

    I never quite got that scandal either. I remember it because it seemed so strange that the store actually pressed charges on a movie star.

    If something like that happened now, I’d bet stores would be willing to give her freebies for mentioning them on twitter or something. And it would all go away. (or make her even more famous)Funny how much the media game has changed since the 90′s.

    She looks amazing for 39. Her face looks exactly the same. Lucky her!

  8. Ella says:

    I hope she makes a comeback. She’s beautiful.

  9. Kevin says:

    Tuscan,,,which movie exactly was she bad in. I can’t think of one actor who hasn’t had a stinker or two. Speaking of stinkers, Depp should have stayed with her in my opinion. Wino forever!

  10. LittleDeadGirl says:

    I can’t believe she is 39. Alot of actresses I’ve seen look older than her at 25 from the hard partying.

  11. maggiegrace says:

    She was always naturally willowy, but now that she is approaching middle age, she’s not any longer. You can tell in that black dress that she’s kind of doughy — doesn’t work out because she never had to when she was young. I always liked watching her for the most part, but I agree with Tuscan Sun, she can’t act very well.

  12. Sandy says:

    She was fab in Beetlejuice, and She was amazing in Girl Interrupted. Thant being said there were a handful of truly embarrassing period pieces between that were claw your eyeballs out hard to watch. Remember Dracula? The horror was Ryder’s accent.

  13. normades says:

    I have to agree with @tuscan sun. Don’t get me wrong I love Winona, but she does lack range. She was great in Heathers, not so much in period pieces like Little Women

  14. Megan says:

    i freakin love her! i’m gonna have to go see black swan, everything i’ve heard about it sounds awesome

  15. PrimeO says:

    Yeah, she’s a one note. Most of her characters sounded the same, seemed the same, she just wasn’t that good at acting. Girl Interrupted was supposed to be this huge movie for her and Angelina stole the show.

    I don’t know if she’s any better now but I’m sure the nostalgia factor alone will win her a few fans.

  16. Solveig says:

    IMO her career took a turn for the worse because of the gigantic hype surrounding her: she was iconic during the whole 90′s, and when she obviously stopped being the weird-but-cool-and-pretty-young-girl nobody was interested in casting her in different roles. And even her fans found hard to see Winona in different ways. But that doesn’t mean that she lacks of acting skills. If HW wasn’t so misogynist I’m sure she would’ve been the female version of Johnny Depp.
    That said, I’m happy she’s getting good reviews.
    As for the pictures, I liked them, but I don’t like the way they styled her, I’m not loving that 60′s look on her.

  17. jc126 says:

    I bet she was stealing for years, and probably multiple times from that store for them to press charges.

  18. kristin says:

    I love her because she’s so pretty and different. Those saying she’s untalented – - I just don’t see that. She’s had some great roles in great films. Nobody hits a perfect note with every film. I think she’s a talented actress. Maybe not a Kate Winslet or Meryl Streep (how many people are?), but very good.

  19. Riley says:

    I remember liking that movie 1969 but I bet if I watched it now I would think it is a total crapfest. House of the Spirits is probably one she is talking about. That movie was horrible namely because the book is so brilliant but the story is so good precisely because of its Latin roots. Americans should have never been cast in the movie. I do love Winona’s honesty and vulnerability. She is a fine actress but she is a really interesting humanbeing. I am glad she has kind of mellowed and seems really comfortable with herself and her age. I have a feeling if life would let them, she and Johnny Depp could probably be really good friends now.

  20. Tammy says:

    From what I remember they also found drugs in her purse during the shoplifting incident, so she was brought up on charges for illegal drug possession and shoplifting.

  21. Lisa S. says:

    I have always felt that she acts the same in every role she is in. But I can’t wait to see Black Swan, maybe her acting is better now. Also in the past she seemed to be catty when speaking about her female co-stars in interviews. Including an interview in which she talked about your beloved Angelina Jolie and how anyone that played the role of Lisa in Girl, Interrupted would have received an Oscar. I also have a theory that she started that rumor about Gwyneth Paltrow and Harvey Weinstein and the whole Shakespeare in Love stolen script sitch. Due to jealousy.

  22. leelee says:

    I think she was and still is at times a total mess. She was caught with a bazillion illegal drug prescrptions and it was only a few years ago she stopped the plane she was on due to a “reaction” to her medication… right a “reaction” more likely an overdose of pills. I think she is breathtaking, but I do believe she has battled pill addiction for years which likely contributed to her downfall more than anything else.

  23. Relli says:

    @ Riley. I totally agree with you about House of Spirits, it is my favorite book I have a signed copy from Isabelle Allende. When my sister met her she mentioned how poor the movie was apparently Allende loved it.

    I had never seen it until one day i was home sick……. i watched about 5 minutes of it before i turned it off so it would not ruin the book for me.

  24. djork says:

    She was caught shoplifting 5,000 DOLLARS worth of stuff she didn’t need and could easily afford.

  25. Az says:

    That face! Breathtaking! Just gorgeous.

  26. Jeri says:

    She’s beautiful and still fasinating. She has more than paid her dues for whatever actions occured in her past.

    Young actors take note, you don’t get a free pass cuz you’re a celeb (or Wanta-Be-Celeb).

  27. benny says:

    She had to be told that? She’s 39, grow the f– up already (I still think she’s pretty, but “ingenue” she aint).

  28. observer says:

    I love her to death, but she was never an ingenue. She was a gamine. Definitely not a bad thing, just a different type than an ingenue. Audrey Hepburn was also a gamine.

  29. mahj says:

    Yeah, she’s not a good actress. She has some cringe-inducing moments in Dracula, in Mermaids, and many others. She is so amazingly sexy and beautiful that I forget how little presence is there, and then one of this ouch moments occurs and her bad acting just slaps me out of the moment.

    But my goodness, such radiance. Her nose job was perfect – google the pre-surgical pics.

    And she had curves, so she was not only very, very pretty but extremely sexy, too. But not an artist. poor acting ability.

  30. Stephyd says:

    “Black Swan” was amazing. I saw it last Sunday and it was fantastic, totally worth it to see it in theaters. Winona Ryder was good in it. I grew up watching so many of her films so I’m happy she’s acting again.
    I always thought she was a talented actress, but she should have never done “Mr. Deeds,” however that movie was terrible in general :)

  31. guest says:

    Kaiser, I think part of what got Winona “banned” was that for a time she and Courtney Love were BFFs and involved in several drug incidents. A very old BI alleges Winona went into rehab in Minnesota, so her drug use was a concern for a very long time.

    And apparently the retail community was aware that she had been stealing many thousands of dollars of merchandise from many stores for years. I was surprised when Saks pressed charges too, but some store was eventually going to put its foot down.

    And there’s that terrifically unflattering link (sorry, I don’t have it) that alleges Winona is the subject of blind items wherein she steals ill employee’s meds, treats co-worker’s badly, and bizarrely, on set, etc., etc.

    But I kind of grew up w/ Winona and loved her in Age of Innocence, and would see Black Swan just for her. I hope she’s doing well.

  32. Cleo says:

    I can see the Nigella Lawson in her. And that is a cool picture of Ashkenzi from SF, France and Russia.

  33. Jayna says:

    She was great for a twentyish year old actress, but heading into thirties, maybe too limited. Her voice is very bland and more suited to a younger actress. An actor or actress’s voice has a lot to do, for me, with how they carry the part, the lift in their voice or depth for a male actor, and her’s was always so ordinary that maybe didn’t have the acting heft to head into her 30s.

  34. lola lola says:

    Hollywood wasn’t punishing her for committing a crime, they were punishing her for her sense of entitlement. Celebrities are never supposed to feel entitled to anything–they have the money to buy things so they should. I’m sorry it happened to her but seriously, buy your clothes woman. That said she seems like a really nice, smart, capable woman. I’m glad she’s around and hope to see her in movies a lot more often. She’s very talented.

  35. ! says:

    First off, Winona happens to be one of the biggest bitches in Hollywood, so I’m not surprised it caught up with her after awhile. I think the shoplifting was merely an excuse to shun her, on the part of some people. Second, as someone else said, her acting has always been weak weak weak.

  36. Erin says:

    Soooo beautiful. I adored her when i was growing up. Aside from the shoplifting, I don’t know anything about all the other craziness she may have been involved with according to other posters, but now I’m super curious!

  37. Brandy says:

    I agree with those who think she’s bland and one-note. I love both “Girl, Interrupted” and “How to Make an American Quilt” in *spite of* the fact that Winona is the main character. Supporting actors are almost always infinitely more interesting in their roles than the leads.

  38. MyCatLovesTV says:

    I didn’t realize until this moment that I must be a Winona Ryder fan since I’ve seen and enjoyed so many of her movies. How to Make an American Quilt, The Crucible, Reality Bites as well as all the others named above. Well, Autumn in New York not so much but I did watch it to the end even though Richard Gere looked like her father. She does seem to play the same character….a vulnerable woman-child with a lot of angst. She is interesting to watch. Her eyes pull you in. If she can keep our attention, she will make a comeback. I’ll root for her. Everybody deserves a second (or third) chance.

  39. rudy5 says:

    has everyone forgot that she was once cosmos “hollywoods biggest bitch”??? that is the real reason her career stalled

  40. Henriette says:

    Mahj is right: great nose job. For those who want to see before and afters,

    Mahj is also right on the poor acting ability part.

  41. chris says:

    Ryder’s career went the way it did because despite the hype around her during the 90s she never became the box office draw the studios thought she would be. She was cast, for example, in ALIEN RESURRECTION specifically to get a younger audience and didn’t manage that.

    Barring LITTLE WOMEN no other movie she headlined did good/great business.

  42. dj says:

    I love that she’s coming back and getting acting parts again. She was huge. Honestly, if she wasn’t a good actress she would not have acted in so many Tim Burton movies. Everyone deserves a 2nd chance just look at how many Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan have gotten. Seriously!

  43. Karen R says:

    She stole that stuff from the store, and worse – thought it was “cute”. A grown woman in her 20s, at that.

    So she knows she is not the ingenue anymore? She was finished ten years ago.

    I never liked her, or her silly name that she made up.

  44. skeptical says:

    why did hollywood punish winona but has not punished lindsay lohan for doing the same basic things?
    lindsay has the feelings of entitlement.. we’ve already seen her theft past.. and i din’t remember reading about Winona doing a carjack-chase down PCH.
    yet lindsay still gets work? What??