Winona Ryder: A studio head once said I looked ‘too Jewish’ to play a blue-blood

SAG Awards Arrivals 2019

Winona Ryder has a newish interview in the Sunday Times and some of the stories she told are getting a lot of attention. What’s weird about the one story – the thing about Mel Gibson being a rampant and casual anti-Semite – is that I’m pretty positive she’s told the story several times in interviews over the years. I even looked it up to see if I had ever covered her talking about Gibson, and here we go – in her 2010 GQ interview, she told the same story about Mel Gibson. Maybe this is her “once a decade” reminder that Mel Gibson has always been a homophobic, racist, anti-Semitic pig. If she really plans that out for “once every ten years, I’m going to remind people that Mel Gibson sucks,” then good for her. I love her even more. She also has a story about Francis Ford Coppola being an a–hole, which I think is new! Some highlights:

On being Jewish in Hollywood and experiencing Antisemitism: “I have… in interesting ways. There are times when people have said, ‘Wait, you’re Jewish? But you’re so pretty!’ There was a movie that I was up for a long time ago, it was a period piece, and the studio head, who was Jewish, said I looked ‘too Jewish’ to be in a blue-blooded family.”

The Mel Gibson story: “We were at a crowded party with one of my good friends, and Mel Gibson was smoking a cigar, and we’re all talking and he said to my friend, who’s gay, ‘Oh wait, am I gonna get AIDS?’ And then something came up about Jews, and he said, ‘You’re not an oven dodger, are you?’” She added that Gibson “tried” to apologise at a later date.

She’s not religious but she identifies: “Not religious, but I do identify. It’s a hard thing for me to talk about because I had family who died in the camps, so I’ve always been fascinated with that time.”

Filming Dracula: Ryder said that, during filming of a scene involving Gary Oldman’s Dracula transforming into a pile of rats, Coppola stood off camera repeatedly shouting “You whore!” in order to get her to believably cry. Coppola also attempted to get the film’s male cast to join in, too. “To put it in context I’m supposed to be crying. Literally, Richard E Grant, Anthony Hopkins, Keanu … Francis was trying to get all of them to yell things that would make me cry. But Keanu wouldn’t, Anthony wouldn’t … It just didn’t work. I was, like, really? It kind of did the opposite.” Ryder said that she and Coppola are “good now”, but that the experience sparked a long-time friendship with Reeves.

Working with Keanu on 2018’s Destination Wedding. “It got the worst reviews. That movie, for some reason, every reviewer was like, ‘This is the worst movie in the world,’ and it was really rough.”

[From The Independent & NME]

I really liked Destination Wedding! It was different than what I thought it would be and it was more dialogue-heavy and darker than I was expecting, but it wasn’t bad at all. As for her stories… Mel Gibson remains trash and I hope she continues to tell that awful story as often as she wants. Francis Ford Coppola and the men of Dracula… lord, what an awful story. At least Keanu was always lovely.

SAG Awards Arrivals 2019

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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55 Responses to “Winona Ryder: A studio head once said I looked ‘too Jewish’ to play a blue-blood”

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  1. Astrid says:

    I was about to get all upset about Keanu and then I finished the paragraph…..I should have had more faith.

    • sa says:

      That was exactly my experience reading it too.

      ‘Oh no, don’t tell me Keanu joined in? Of course he didn’t, I never doubted him at all, and shame on me for that second of doubt.’

    • SM says:

      Me as well. Also “oven dodger”? Seriously? How come Mel’s sexist, antisemitic, hating ass is again allowed in Hollywood?

    • whatWHAT? says:

      hahahaha….ME TOO! But I’m glad I was wrong and that Keanu remains as lovely as I thought he was.

      I STAN Winona…always loved her.

      F*cking Gibson…he was always trash, but hid it well for so long. I loved how South Park lampooned him.

      • Enny says:

        Very disappointed in Richard E Grant, though 😡 she conspicuously did not mention him refraining from demeaning her.

  2. Bettyrose says:

    Winona 4eva! I’m a ride or die fan and this girl got some bad breaks in Hollywood.

  3. Mumbles says:

    Lol I don’t know who that stupid studio head was or when he said it, but Winona did New England WASP very capably in Little Women and The Age of Innocence. What a dope.

    • Betsy says:

      It was probably for one of those movies and the exec got overruled.

      I really like Winona, but she’s one of those actresses who is always just herself, I never forget she’s Winona. I still like watching her!

    • MrsBanjo says:

      Internalised hatred is a thing – particularly in an industry where you’re only supposed to he one type of person.

    • sa says:

      I”m thinking Shakespeare in Love. I’ve heard many times that she was supposed to play Viola (the Gwyneth Paltrow role), but something happened and it fell through.

      • Chaine says:

        I thought the story was she and Paltrow were friends, and Paltrow saw the script at Winona’s house and stole the role?

      • whatWHAT? says:

        Chaine, that is the story I remember as well.

      • sa says:

        2 things can be true at once. This could be the reason they passed on Ryder, giving Paltrow the opportunity to swoop in.

        I’m not pretending to have any inside information (I don’t, at all). I’m just saying I don’t think that the script story contradicts or eliminates Shakespeare in Love as the movie she’s talking about.

      • OriginalLara says:

        Yep, that’s I thought immediately as well. Weinstein. And it could very well be that Paltrow jumped into taking the role a bit too easily (while Winona was sidelined) and that’s what ended her friendship.

      • Becks1 says:

        Was she a “blue blood” in Shakespeare in Love though?

        Regardless I definitely don’t think it was a movie she ended up getting – so not Age of Innocence. so Shakespeare in Love would fit especially because I could see Weinstein saying that.

      • Elizabeth says:

        I mean Gwyneth’s of Jewish descent also actually so . . . No idea.

    • Ellen Olenska says:

      I went w age of innocence as well!

    • Sara says:

      The March’s weren’t blue blood so I’m thinking it was Age of Innocence in which Winona was perfect for her role.

  4. Tiffany says:

    I too liked Destination Wedding, if not for one of the funniest, most realistic sex scenes I have seen in a film in a long time.

    • LaUnicaAngelina says:

      I need to check Destination Wedding out. I’ve been a Winona fan since my teens! I just love her and want the best for her.

      • osito says:

        It reminded me of a lot of 90s rom-com indies (in a good way!). Super dialogue-heavy, misanthropic leads who are actually really sweet underneath the layers of sarcasm, a little theater-y. I loved it having grown up absolutely inhaling those kinds of films, but I also think that’s why it wasn’t a win with modern critics.

    • Lightpurple says:

      And the big kitty

    • JanetDR says:

      My expectations were not high, but I’m a Keanu fan so had it on my list. We enjoyed it a lot!
      It’s funny but when I’m watching Stranger Things, I keep thinking that I’m watching Patricia Heaton and not Winona.

  5. lucy2 says:

    She needs to write a tell all book or something. I bet this is only a fraction of the abuse she endured during the early years of her career. I’m glad the actors refused FFC’s awful demand. I can’t even imagine how that whole thing made her feel.
    Never forget that her career got ruined by shoplifting, whereas men like Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen kept going and made millions.

    • SomeChick says:

      My sentiments exactly. Gibson is trash, as he has proved again and again. I stopped watching anything he is in long ago.

      <3 Keanu Forever! <3 I will admit I was half holding my breath, and half thinking, "naaaah, never!" and I am so glad to have been proven right. Good on Hopkins, too. Real men don't abuse women. Not even for a movie!

    • OriginalLara says:

      I’ll forever love Marc Jacobs because she stole some of his stuff and he then outfitted her during her court appearances. I think he even mentioned in interviews how stupid it was that her career stalled because of this.

  6. BayTampaBay says:

    I watch “The Plot Against America” on HBO and Winona Ryder was wonderful in it.

    I also loved her in Martin Scorsese’s “The Age of Innocence” which is my favorite Scorsese’s movie. I am a sucker for hysterical costume dramas.

    • Tiffany says:

      I love that someone else enjoys The Age of Innocence as much as I do. But I did have one complaint about it, not enough Michelle Pfeiffer.

      And critics were not kind to Winona’s role in that film. They thought she was miscasted but I thought she nailed the naivete of May.

    • Ellen Olenska says:

      It is one of my all time favorite movies (Age). The best review of it I ever saw said “ this is a Scorsese movie..it’s just the taking of a life without blood…which makes it deadlier” or something to that effect!

  7. WilliamJoelene says:

    She’s almost grown into her terrible eyebrow lift

    • Chaine says:

      Is that what happened? I knew her eyes always look abnormally wide now but wasn’t sure what would cause that.

  8. Mia4s says:

    I’m amazed that Mel Gibson story actually trended. She’s told it a dozen times for at least 20 years! Yep, Gibson is a racist, homophobic, Anti-Semite. This is not new and yes he has recent Oscar nominations. Welcome to Hollywood!

    Keanu was and is good people. No shock.

    When she noted that Anthony Hopkins didn’t join in all I could think was that while it could just be he knew it was inappropriate, given his disdain for method acting I like to think part of it was “FFS, Francis calm down, get a grip and just let the poor girl act!!”.

    • Tiffany says:

      The advancement of social media.

      Things were different 20 years ago when print was still a powerhouse but also something that can be buried and easily forgotten in a month.

  9. Vanessa says:

    Destination Wedding was a really nice little indie film and I enjoyed the heck out of it!

  10. Michael says:

    Always nice to be reminded that Keanu Reeves will never embarrass you for being a fan. Also I bet the movie was Age of Innocence, which I loved.

  11. Sara says:

    For the kids who don’t know, Winona was THE queen of 90s GenX movies. Wino Forever.
    F–k Coppola. His Dracula movie was so over the top stupid.

  12. sherry says:

    The stuff a-holes like Coppola and Mel Gibson got away with amazes me to this day. Coppola sounds like an absolute creep, and I’m glad he isn’t making movies anymore – abuse of women, abuse of animals, he is truly disgusting.

    As for Mel, he is the epitome of the worst kind of human being.

  13. McMom says:

    I like Winona and Keanu, but I thought Destination Wedding was awful. I was watching it on the plane and turned off the volume and just watched the two of them because they are both so pretty, but the script was painful.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I remember that story about Coppola from many years ago. I also recall that during a scene where she and Gary Oldman were kissing/getting passionate, he was told to whisper explicitly sexual things in her ear to get her “in the mood.” I’ve always thought that was ridiculous. But honestly, I’ve also never thought Winona Ryder is a very good actor, because I find she’s always basically herself. I did like her in Age of Innocence, though — she really nailed May’s transition from sweet, naive debutante to a quietly manipulative wife who knew exactly what she needed to do to stop her husband’s affair.

  15. Zen says:

    I first loved Winona as the goth girl in Beetlejuice. And she was excellent in Girl, Interrupted. Her narration was so good. And of course Reality Bites. Love her.

    And too Jewish looking? What does Jewish look like?! What a ridiculous thing to say.

    • Enny says:

      Many people who see me think I’m Irish because they don’t realize that pale skin and red hair are actually very common traits with Ashkenazi Jews… There is a “stereotypical” Jewish look (dark hair, hooked nose) often made into some of the most grotesque anti-Semitic propaganda, and then those of us who have more of a mix of European and Middle Eastern features, which often don’t fit many people’s ideas of what “Jewish” looks like. Other Jews usually know I am Jewish immediately, I have a certain “look” despite my coloring, as do other ethnically Jewish (blonde) women like Gwyneth Paltrow (pre-nose job, at least), but darker-haired and darker-complected women like Winona get pigeonholed because people view the Jewish look as “dark” and the European look as “light.” There’s a broad range of Jewish ethnicity, from palest of white to darkest of black. Hollywood makes casting decisions on the most superficial of characteristics, this should surprise no one.

    • Amelie says:

      I’ve had people mistake me for being Jewish a few times. It’s the dark thick wavy hair and people have mentioned the shape of my nose. However I am 100% Catholic and I’ve done a few DNA tests for fun and there is no recent Jewish ancestry in my background that I know of. People are usually surprised, especially if I’m in a group with a lot of Jewish people and it just randomly comes up. However I have the very fair cannot tan Irish skin which is a dead giveaway.

  16. KBeth says:

    There is something so likable about Ryder, I’m glad she has persevered.
    Gibson is disgusting.

  17. AppleTartin says:

    I wonder if the role was before or after her shoplifting debacle. She was really blacklisted and an easy prey to take shots at after that happened. It’s amazing all the depravity going on at that time and the men were so well protected and insulated. Taking a dress out of a department store she thought would be charged to her account she thought she had there (I believe her). (there was no account) Was the least worst thing at that time.

    • Anonymous says:

      She was caught on camera, acting very strange and erratic. She knew she was stealing.

      I’ve also never believed the notion that it ruined her career. Winona Ryder was a Hollywood favourite. She would have been forgiven pretty easily by most directors/producers, and elevated to A-list status again pretty quickly. I think she chose to disappear for a while to figure some things out.

  18. Meg says:

    Did u read mels reps response to this? He called winona a liar a half a dozen times? Sounds like he hired a rep with anger issues just like him

  19. The Recluse says:

    I remember reading about that Coppola motivational acting maneuver and all I could think was how angry it would have made me to be in her place and how I would have told him off or walked out.

  20. K says:

    Mel Gibson is repulsive and Coppola should never have had to abuse actors to get them to deliver. Sorry Winona, but Destination Wedding was THE WORST. I’m fond of Winona and Keanu despite their often-subpar acting, I wanted it to be cute and adorable since I think they really kind of love each other IRL… but my God, they deserved that criticism. To be fair, it’s not solely the fault of the actors and they’ve both been fun in other things recently.

  21. Coley says:

    I’m so glad Keanu didn’t join in but does that mean Richard E Grant did? Noooo.

    • Jenn says:

      My reaction, too! Noooooooo!

    • Enny says:

      I know, right? I totally fell in love with him during the past year’s Oscar campaign, and if he verbally abused Winona on set then that is repulsive and washes away all of his recent goodwill ☹️