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Winona Ryder

Winona Ryder (born Winona Laura Horowitz) is an American actress born on October 29, 1971 in Winona, Minnesota to Michael and Cindy Horowitz. Cindy Horowitz (nee 'Palmer') was a WASB (White Anglo-Saxon Buddhist) while Michael Horowitz was of Russian and Romanian Jewish descent. His family's original name had been 'Tomchin' but they had been wrongly assigned the name 'Horowitz' by U.S. immigration officials at Ellis Island. Winona Ryder was named after the town in Minnesota where she was born. Notable family friends included her godfather Timothy Leary and Beat poet Allen Ginsberg.



When she was seven years old she and her family resided at a commune in Elk, California , where they lived with seven other families on a 300-acre (1.2 km²) plot of land. As the area had no electricity Ryder took to reading, particularly appreciating the novel Catcher in the Rye. Her mother did however show her some films on a screen in the barn, which perhaps lead her to develop an interest in what would later make up her career. At age 10 the family moved again to Petaluma, California. She was harassed her first week of junior high school there when a group of bullies mistook her for a feminine, scrawny boy. This led her to be schooled at home that year, but she also spent time attending the American Conservatory Theater in nearby San Francisco, where she started taking acting lessons.

Career and adult life

In 1985 she sent a video audition to appear in the film Desert Bloom , but was rejected. However, David Seltzer , a writer and director, soon noticed her and cast her for his 1986 film Lucas for a role of an teenage outcast, falling in love, but ignored, by the main character. When asked how she wanted her name to appear in the credits, she suggested Ryder as a Mitch Ryder album of her father's played in the background. Her next movie was Square Dance (1987) (called "a remarkable debut" by The Los Angeles Times), where her teenage character creates a bridge between two alien worlds/plot devices - a traditional farm in the middle of nowhere and a Big City. Her role concentrates on a profound question: how much of our behaviour perceived by the outside world is inherent to us and how much comes from acting the social role under pressure of the society, in a way that society considers "proper" and ethical implications coming from this classical conflict of interest, which she later had a chance to make perfect in The Age of Innocence. Her breakthrough film is generally considered to be Tim Burton's 1988 film Beetlejuice, in which she played a goth teenager named Lydia suffering from depression induced by extreme consumeric worldview her parents represent, who comes to live in a haunted house (the haunting performed by Geena Davis, Alec Baldwin and Michael Keaton). She is the only human being among the players able to feel strong empathy and sympathy toward the ghosts and their drama of being captured in between the world of the living and the afterworld . The movie was a commercial and media success. She went on to play a primary role in another Burton project, the 1990 film Edward Scissorhands, alongside her then-boyfriend Johnny Depp. It is the only movie of her career in which one can admire her long, luxurious, sexy, erotic, blond hair - her natural color, which she has dyed dark since childhood).

In 1989 she starred in a now cult movie - Heathers, which her agent thought was bad for her career. Her character is opposed to violence as a way to resolve conflicts and is able to express her views by stopping major violent accident from happening. Also, again she struggles forced to choose between the will of mad society and her own heart - she wins that battle in a pat by choosing neither and playing all parties against themselves, so she can be left alone to decide about her life. In the same year she did Great Balls of Fire, playing the thirteen-year-old bride of Jerry Lee Lewis. She withdrew from her role in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather, Part III, after feeling exhausted from recent roles — she finished two somewhat related movies Mermaids (with Cher, Christina Ricci, Bob Hoskins and Michael Schoeffling) and Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichel (with Jeff Daniels), both shot in 1990 and both stressing the motive of the ability of our own personal narrative changing our Real Life.

In 1991 she played a taxi driver who wants to become a mechanic (Night On Earth ), against the forced repertoire of roles selected for women by gender prejudices.

In 1992 she starred and gave an outstanding performance in the double role of Mina Harker and princes Elisabetha , in Bram Stoker's Dracula.

The next year she appeared in The Age of Innocence (alongside 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. She plays a young woman, captured in plots within plots within plots of the society where every sentence pronounced has at least three different meanings. The constant merciless war of countless conspiring factions is mirrored in the scenery, full of symbols and ciphered messages passed by secret agents of love trying to tell truth while avoiding the insane rage of organised madness around them. Her role in this movie won her a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress as well as an Academy Award nomination.

Next, she did The House of the Spirits (1993).

Next she starred in How to Make an American Quilt (1995) - again the character is forced to choose between a will of the "quilting bee" and her desires, followed by Boys , (1996), again fighting for her Self against the whole world, with love as her only true friend and guide. The movie featured also the motive of confusion between subjective and objective interpretations of perceived reality, later exploited in Lost Souls. She received yet another nomination in 1994 with Little Women, based on the classic novel of the same name.

In the same year she starred in a cult movie, coined by the press "portrait of Generation X" - Reality Bites. Her character had to choose between the voice of reason and the voice of heart - two potential mates - a self-centered, half-educated, lacking empathy but successful as a producer in the business of garbage media played by Ben Stiller and a free-spirited, caring but also self-centered leader of a alternative band, permanently kicking himself out of his extremely boring jobs he has to take to earn for a living, played by Ethan Hawke. She is at the same time struggling with life in a world obsessed about money and brainwashing commercials, discarding anyone more interested in the deeds of intellect and spirit.

In 1996 she starred in Al Pacino's debut as a director, Looking for Richard and The Crucible (1996), a movie concerning famous mass executions of innocent people in Salem triggered by a anti-witchcraft hysteria of puritan population. The movie was praised by critics but failed to be a commercial success.

Soon afterward she accepted a role in the 1997 film Alien: Resurrection. Having grown up on the Alien franchise, she signed before having even read a script.

Celebrity (1998), her next work, contains an episode with a pun toward the character from the Night on Earth - an alternative path of life.

In 1999 she acted in and served as executive producer for Girl, Interrupted, based on the autobiography of Susanna Kaysen. Ryder was deeply attached emotionally to that movie, considering it her "child of the heart"; she played the Kaysen character, who had a borderline personality disorder and was rather calm and subdued. In contrast, the supporting role performed by Angelina Jolie of a psychopath full of sexual energy and dramatic episodes, stole the attention of the public and the Academy.

She went on to portray the fragile, beautiful, young, talented and doomed love interest of Richard Gere's character in the 2000 romance Autumn in New York.

In the same year she played a soror of the secret society loosely connected to Catholic Church determined to prevent Armageddon - Lost Souls. The character struggles between the world (including the Church) laughing at supernatural, her own beliefs based on personal experience and uncertainty between seemingly obvious empirical evidence and her doubts in her own sanity and ability to reason or even perceive correctly. The movie was not a success, lost in a myriad of others exploiting the Millennium FUD.

She got into legal trouble in December 2001 when she was caught shoplifting $5,500 worth of designer clothes at Saks Fifth Avenue department store in Beverly Hills, California. She was also accused of possession of a prescription drug without prescription, in the spirit of War on Drugs. On 6 December, 2002 she was sentenced to 480 hours of community service, three years' probation, $3700 in fines, and $6355 in restitution. The charges were later attenuated, the felonies changed to misdemeanors and, according to press, she fully cooperated with law enforcement, one of the policemen commented "she is a very nice Lady, very civil."

In 2002 Ryder appeared in two films - a romantic comedy Mr. Deeds (alongside Adam Sandler), where she plays a cynical reporter for an unscrupulous television program, and an episodic role in S1m0ne, where she portrays an extravagant star, who is replaced by a computer simulated actress due to secret workings of a director, starred by Al Pacino.

Notable romances in the past include Johnny Depp, Christian Slater, David Pirner, David Duchovny, Gary Oldman, Matt Damon and Conor Oberst.


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Last updated: 05-07-2005 06:31:29
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04