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.”
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.
Photos courtesy of Elle. Elle’s slideshow here.