Winona Ryder Actress Biography
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. Ryder’s 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. She won acclaim for the performance, with the Los Angeles Times calling it “a remarkable debut.” Both films, however, were only marginally successful commercially.
Ryder’s next role was opposite Ethan Hawke 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. According to Hawke and Stiller, the film only got greenlit due to Ryder’s star status. Later 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.” Roger Ebert wrote in his review, “Little Women grew on me. At first, I was grumpy, thinking it was going to be too sweet and devout. Gradually, I saw that Gillian Armstrong was taking it seriously. And then I began to appreciate the ensemble acting, with the five actresses creating the warmth and familiarity of a real family.” He also praised Ryder for her strong and sunny portrayal of Jo. She received a Best Actress Oscar nomination the following year. Ryder also 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.
In 2002, Ryder starred in the critically panned box office hit Mr. Deeds, after which her career declined and she took a break from films. In 2009, she returned in the high-profile film Star Trek. In 2010, she was nominated for two Screen Actors Guild Awards: as the lead actress in the television film 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 has starred as Joyce Byers in the Netflix science fiction horror series Stranger Things (2016–present), for which she has received Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations; and in 2020, she starred in the HBO drama miniseries The Plot Against America.
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. The script was originally intended for a television adaptation but Ryder liked it so much she showed the script to Coppola. The film premiered in November 1992 to critical and commercial success.
The same year, Ryder starred in Martin Scorsese’s period film The Age of Innocence (1993), an adaptation of Edith Wharton’s novel which co-starred Michelle Pfeiffer and Daniel Day-Lewis. Ryder considers Scorsese “the best director in the world”. For her portrayal of May Welland, the fiancée of Newland Archer (Day-Lewis), Ryder won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress as well as received Academy Award and BAFTA award nominations. Although not a commercial success, the Age of Innocence 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 next set to star in Broken Dreams with actor River Phoenix. The project was put on hold due to his untimely death in 1993. In 1993, Ryder also appeared on the music video “Without a Trace” by Soul Asylum, whose member David Pirner was her boyfriend at the time.
In 1999, Ryder starred in and served as an executive producer for Girl, Interrupted, based on the 1993 memoir of the same name by Susanna Kaysen. The film had been in development since late 1996, but took time to begin filming. Ryder was deeply attached to the project, referring to it as her “child of the heart.” She played Kaysen, who has borderline personality disorder and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for recovery. Directed by James Mangold and co-starring Angelina Jolie, the film was expected to mark Ryder’s comeback playing leading roles. Instead, it turned out to be the “welcome-to-Hollywood coronation” for Jolie, who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance. Roger Ebert stated, “Ryder shows again her skill at projecting mental states; one of her gifts is to let us know exactly what she’s thinking, without seeming to.” He later said that Ryder is one of the reasons to see the film. The same year, Ryder was parodied in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. She also started her own music company, Roustabout Studios in 1999.
Ryder’s 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. The same year, Ryder narrated Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl for which she was nominated for a Grammy Award. A review by Audiofile praised her performance, saying “Winona Ryder is the perfect narrator for this work. Her voice sounds very young, matching the 14-year-old’s enthusiasm and frustrations.”
Ryder has been involved in philanthropic work for the American Indian College Fund since her twenties, which sends low income Native Americans to universities.
She credits her career to director Tim Burton.
Ryder explained to Interview magazine that the incident occurred during a difficult time in her life when she was clinically depressed. She also stated the heavy pain-killing medication that a physician practicing quackery had prescribed for her significantly clouded her judgment. The doctor who prescribed the medication 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”.
Born: Winona Laura Horowitz (1971-10-29) October 29, 1971 (age 49)Winona, Minnesota, U.S.
Education: American Conservatory Theater
Years active: 1985–present
Johnny Depp (1989–1993)
Scott Mackinlay Hahn (2011–present)
Ryder landed the role of Veronica Sawyer in the independent film Heathers (1989). 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. Ryder reflected later, “That was the first time I was even described in the script as attractive in any way.” 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. 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 2008, Ryder played the female lead opposite Wes Bentley and Ray Romano in Geoffrey Haley’s offbeat romantic drama The Last Word. She then starred as a newscaster in the film adaptation of The Informers. She also appeared in director J. J. Abrams’s Star Trek, as Spock’s human mother Amanda Grayson. Several media outlets noted Ryder’s return to film during this time. In 2009, Ryder starred alongside Robin Wright and Julianne Moore in Rebecca Miller’s The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009).
After Ryder’s film debut in Lucas (1986), she gained attention with her performance in Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice (1988). She further rose to prominence with major roles in Heathers (1989), Mermaids (1990), Edward Scissorhands (1990), and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). She garnered critical acclaim and two consecutive Academy Award nominations for her portrayals of socialite May Welland in Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence (1993) and Jo March in the third film adaptation of Little Women (1994). Her other films during this period were Reality Bites (1994), How to Make an American Quilt (1995), The Crucible (1996), Alien Resurrection (1997), Celebrity (1999), and Girl, Interrupted (1999), which she also executive-produced.
Denise Di Novi, producer of Heathers
In 2013, Ryder appeared in the action thriller Homefront (2013), again opposite James Franco, this time playing a meth-addicted woman. Steven Boone of RogerEbert.com stated that “Ryder often seems on the verge of laughing in Franco’s face as he attempts to manhandle and pimp-talk her. But it’s nice to see her raven eyes and regal cheekbones on a big screen again, in whatever capacity.” Ryder also starred in a segment of the Comedy Central television series Drunk History (2013) called “Boston”. She played religious protester Mary Dyer, opposite stern Puritan magistrate John Endicott, played by Michael Cera. She then took on the role of Piggy Shippen, the wife of Benedict Arnold, in her appearance of the second season of Drunk History (2014). In 2014, Ryder appeared in the British television film Turks & Caicos (2014) and modeled in the Fall advertising campaign of fashion label Rag & Bone.
Since 2016, Ryder has starred in the Netflix scifi-horror series Stranger Things (2016–), created by The Duffer Brothers, playing Joyce Byers, a single mother whose 12-year-old son vanishes mysteriously. The Duffer brothers stated that Ryder “has a very intense energy about her […] a wiry unpredictability, a sort of anxiousness that we thought we’d really lean into.” The series’ first season premiered in July 2016 to critical acclaim and high audience ratings. Ryder also received praise for her performance, and the cast won the SAG award for best ensemble for a drama series in 2017. The second and third seasons of the series were released in October 2017 and July 2019. For season 3, she was paid a reported $350,000 per episode. The filming for the fourth season has been halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but has since resumed filming since September 2020.
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.
In 1990, Ryder appeared in four film roles. She was the female lead alongside her then-boyfriend Johnny Depp in the fantasy film Edward Scissorhands, which reunited her with director Tim Burton. 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 nervous exhaustion. Ryder’s third role of the year 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, and a National Board Review award for the same category. 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. The film co-starred Jeff Daniels and was deemed a flop due to its poor showing at the box office. Later in the same year, she was awarded ‘ShoWest’s Female Star of Tomorrow’ by The National Association of Theatre Owners. In 1990, Ryder also made a cameo in Roy Orbison’s music video, “A Love So Beautiful” with Matthew Modine.
In early 2020, Ryder appeared in Squarespace’s Super Bowl commercial which was aired during the first half of the game. Later that year, she starred in The Plot Against America, an HBO limited series based upon the 2004 novel of the same name. David Simon, the creator of the series commented; “Winona always had the standing of the great American ingenue. Now we’re ready for the second act, because she’s always been a remarkable actor—always asking questions about the role, doing the research, and then feeling the camera instinctively once the work begins.” The series remarked Ryder’s second collaboration with Simon.
In 2001, Ryder began a four-year career hiatus. Apart from a guest appearance on NBC’s sitcom Friends, where she played Rachel’s college sorority sister, and a brief cameo in Ben Stiller’s comedy Zoolander (2001), she appeared in no new releases in 2001. She was due to appear in Lily and the Secret of Planting, but withdrew from the project after being hospitalized for a severe stomach-related disorder in August 2001. In December 2001, was arrested for shoplifting (see below), which made it difficult for her to be insured for further film projects. Woody Allen wanted to cast Robert Downey Jr. and Ryder in his film Melinda and Melinda (2003), 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.”
Orlando Sentinel film critic Jay Boyar discussing Reality Bites
Named after her home city, Ryder 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.
Ryder maintains homes in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Williamsburg in New York City. Although she was raised in a secular household, she identifies as Jewish. She has experienced anti-Semitism in the past.
In 1993, Ryder starred in the melodrama The House of the Spirits (1993), 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. Roger Ebert wrote, “Winona Ryder, who plays the daughter of Irons and Close, also seems an unlikely casting choice but she is more convincing, with more abandon and passion, and she makes her character work.”
During a sentencing hearing related to the 2001 shoplifting incident, 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 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, when she was 17 and he was 26. After their breakup, she dated Soul Asylum band member Dave Pirner, staying very close even after their breakup. She dated Matt Damon from 1998 to 2000, and she has been in a relationship with Scott Mackinlay Hahn since 2011.
Winona Laura Horowitz (born October 29, 1971), known professionally as Winona Ryder, is an American actress. She is the recipient of several awards, including a Golden Globe Award, and has been nominated for two Academy Awards. She is known for taking on quirky roles in her earlier films, after which she went on to play more prominent roles in the 1990s.
Ryder has stated that her natural hair color is brown, but she was “really blonde as a kid”, and when she was 11 or 12 she started dying her blonde hair blue and purple. At the time of her audition for the 1986 film Lucas, her hair had been dyed black and the filmmakers asked her to keep it.
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 Beverly Hills 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 assembled 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.
On Valentine’s Day, 1998, Ryder performed in Eve Ensler’s play, The Vagina Monologues. She 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. In 1998, Ryder also appeared in the music video for Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s song Talk About the Blues; a screenshot from the video later appeared on the cover of their album Xtra-Acme USA. In 1998, Ryder and Leonardo DiCaprio narrated Survivors: Testimonies of the Holocaust, a CD-ROM produced by Steven Spielberg’s The Shoah Visual History Foundation. She also served as a member of the jury, led by Martin Scorsese, at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival.
In April 2000, Ryder was awarded the Peter J. Owens Award at the San Francisco Film Festival. Her next film, the melodrama Autumn in New York, in which she starred opposite Richard Gere, was released in August. The film received mixed reviews, but was a commercial success, grossing $90 million at the worldwide box office. In September, Ryder made a guest appearance in the finale episode of Comedy Central’s Strangers With Candy. 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. She later said, “I was attracted to Lost Souls because I know nothing about this subject. I personally don’t believe in demonic possession. For me to play this woman was a real challenge. She is the ultimate believer. Most of all, I just wanted to do a movie in the thriller genre, at least one.” On October 6, 2000, Ryder received her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 2015, Ryder was a juror at the Sundance Film Festival. She continued her work in television with the HBO miniseries Show Me a Hero (2015), in which she played the president of the Yonkers City Council. She then starred alongside Peter Sarsgaard in the biopic Experimenter, playing the wife of Stanley Milgram. Experimenter was released to positive reviews in October 2015. Aside from acting, Ryder appeared in advertisements for Marc Jacobs, both for their cosmetics and for their spring 2016 collection.
Ryder’s personal life has received significant media attention. Her relationship with Johnny Depp in the early 1990s and a 2001 arrest for shoplifting were both 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.
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. On May 18, 2002, Ryder hosted Saturday Night Live. In 2005, Ryder co-produced and co-narrated the documentary The Day My God Died (2004) with Tim Robbins, which focuses on international child sex trafficking.
After seeing her in Lucas, director Tim Burton decided to cast Ryder in his film Beetlejuice (1988). 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. Years later, she commented, “I did Beetlejuice, and it was a big movie, but it didn’t help my high-school experience. In fact it made it worse. I was a freak and a witch.” 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 2018, Ryder appeared 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. The same year, Ryder also starred in a L’Oréal shampoo commercial, and in H&M’s spring collection campaign co-starring Elizabeth Olsen.
Ryder made a career return with appearances in several independent films in 2006 and 2007. The first was The Darwin Awards (2006) in which she acted alongside Joseph Fiennes. The second was Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly, a film adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel, in which she co-starred opposite Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson. The film was made entirely with the rotoscope software, which was used to turn live action scenes into animation. The following year, Ryder appeared in David Wain’s comedy The Ten, and reunited with Heathers screenwriter Daniel Waters for the surreal black comedy Sex and Death 101 (2007). She also starred in Kirsten Dunst-directed short horror film Welcome (2007), and made a brief appearance in the music video for “We’re All Stuck Out In The Desert” by Jonathan Rice.
When she was ten, 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 through high school, when she achieved early success with Beetlejuice; she recalled: “I remember thinking, ‘Ooh, it’s 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.
The following year, Ryder had a prominent supporting role as an aging ballet star in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (2010). She also starred in the independent film Stay Cool alongside Hilary Duff, Mark Polish and Chevy Chase, and in the television movie, When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story. For her performance as Lois Wilson, whose husband co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous in 1930s, Ryder was nominated for a SAG Award in the Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries category. Entertainment Weekly wrote that “Ryder played her character with wide eyes of both innocence and terror.” Ryder next appeared in a leading role in Ron Howard’s The Dilemma (2011), co-starring Vince Vaughn and Kevin James.
Ryder then played Deborah Kuklinski, the wife of contract killer Richard Kuklinski, in the thriller The Iceman (2012), co-starring Michael Shannon. Ryder also appeared with her The Iceman co-star James Franco in The Letter (2012). She also reunited with director Tim Burton, who directed her in the music video for The Killers’ single, “Here with Me”, and cast her in the animated 3D feature film Frankenweenie (2012). Ryder also worked with the classic film channel TCM in 2012, guest hosting for a week in September, while Robert Osborne was on vacation, and introducing some of her favorite classic films in December.
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.” He stated that the film has wasted the talent and intelligence of Winona Ryder. 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 critical acclaim and Ryder’s performance was lauded, with Peter Travers of Rolling Stone saying, “Ryder offers a transfixing portrait of warped innocence.” Ryder later claimed that the role of Abigail Williams is the hardest in her whole career.
Winona Laura Horowitz was born on October 29, 1971, in Winona, Minnesota, to 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 Timothy Leary (who was Ryder’s godfather). Her father is of Jewish heritage (his family emigrated from Ukraine 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. Growing up, she visited her grandparents in Brooklyn for Passover every year.
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. On June 18, 2004, Superior Court Judge Elden Fox reviewed Ryder’s probation report and noted that she had served 480 hours of community service, and the felonies were reduced to misdemeanors. She remained on probation until December 2005.
Ryder next took on a role as an android in Alien Resurrection (1997), alongside Sigourney Weaver, who had starred in the entire Alien trilogy. Ryder’s brother, Uri, was a major fan of the film series, and when approached about it, she agreed to the project. 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. Ryder’s and Weaver’s performances drew mostly positive reviews, and Ryder won a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Best Actress. Roger Ebert, however, in his review of the film commented that Ryder lacks the conviction and presence to stand alongside Ripley and the rest of the cast. He compares her with Janette Goldstein in Aliens. “Ryder is a wonderful actress, one of the most gifted of her generation, but wrong for this movie,” he added. At 1997’s ShoWest event, she was presented with their ‘Female Star of the Year’ award.
Awards: Full list
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