Winona graced the cover of Sunday Times Style magazine this past Sunday (February 28), in a great interview by Edwina Ings-Chambers and photograph by Phil Poynter. I wasn’t able to get proper scans of the magazine yet, but my friend Lindsey got the article for us, which you can read under the cut tag.
Check also in our gallery some images of the editorial. So. Pretty.
Winona Ryder: ‘I’ve gone through some tough times in my life’ She hates social media, will never have Botox and shuns the A-list life. Now 44, and the new face of Marc Jacobs Beauty, the actress is as outspoken and quirky as ever
Finally, after months of chasing down an interview, Winona Ryder walks into a small meeting room in downtown New York. That’s Winona Ryder, Lydia Deetz (Beetlejuice), Charlotte Flax (Mermaids), Jo March (Little Women), a tiny sparrow of a person, apologising for being late, she’s so punctual usually, but she’s not a New Yorker, though she lived in the city for 10 years, in Gramercy Park where you could kind of walk everywhere, but she’s come from Brooklyn, where she now has an apartment, and the bridge was up, and she never even knew the bridge did that.
Perhaps it’s no wonder she has proven so elusive. I’m not sure logistics are her strong point, and she’s been filming in Atlanta, very unstarrily without an assistant. So the days and weeks ticked by until, at the very last moment, word came through that she would meet me in New York the next day. So I drop everything and catch a flight. At this point, I couldn’t care less if she’s 30 minutes behind schedule. Now, she’s here, sitting next to me on a sofa (she has deemed the across-the-coffee-table option too big a distance between us), drinking a beer as the sun sets behind her.
The reason Ryder has agreed to a rare face-to-face is because, at the ripe old age of 44, she has become the face of Marc Jacobs Beauty, which launched in the UK at Harrods this month. The pair have been good friends for more than 20 years. “My gosh, yes,” she says. “I’m at that age, you know, when you used to say you’ve known someone for 10 years, then it’s, no it’s 15, no 20, no 25. You get used to saying a certain number.” Then, in what seems to be typical Ryder fashion (she often leaves sentences unfinished and takes the verbally scenic route when answering questions), she goes off on a tangent. “You know what I really like is even numbers, they seem friendlier. I’ve always loved fours and eights and doesn’t that [she draws the figure 8 in the air] mean infinity?” Seven is not so lucky, seven she doesn’t like.
It’s lovely, really, that the Ryder you expect to meet is the one you actually do meet. She’s quirky, seems fragile and yet is totally prepared to take a view and stand side by side with it, even if it goes against the mainstream. She has an almost childlike openness to her that gives her a youthful countenance.
That youthfulness is one of the reasons Jacobs chose her for the gig. He recently told Style: “I joke about it with friends, ‘God, Winona looks amazing,’” he says. “We’re always, like, ‘Yeah, she made a pact with the devil or something,’ because she literally does look breathtakingly beautiful, and doesn’t seem to age. It’s not plastic and it’s not filler or any of those things, so we can’t quite figure out how she’s managed to look that good for that long, but she has.”
I recount this to Ryder. “Yeah, OK, but see, I do look older,” she says. “And, obviously, everyone knows about airbrushing.” Still, she has been vocal about the fact that cosmetic tinkering is not for her, and she shows me that her facial muscles are all still fully functioning. “I don’t judge people, and I know people are trying to buy time to work for a few more years. What I’m really saying is, I wish society wouldn’t judge. I feel like it sounds ridiculous for me to talk about ageism, because I’ve been very lucky, in the sense that in other people’s eyes, I’ve maintained this [youthfulness], but I wish society could just celebrate ageing and it could be more of a goal. I do enjoy getting older.”
She certainly thinks it’s a good thing for younger girls to see women her age landing contracts like this, even if — and she almost squirms when talking about her looks — she’s never considered herself a great beauty. “With social media and the internet, you get bombarded with what you’re supposed to be and what is beautiful, and it’s so important to be who you are and your own person. I worry sometimes when you see young actresses and they have a stylist. I remember going to a red-carpet thing and getting this vintage dress and discovering my own style — I was always very into vintage. But the whole idea of taking a 20-year-old and saying, ‘These are your shoes and this is how you’re supposed to do this.’ Let them discover it for themselves. And things like ‘Who wore it best’ are a little weird to me. I think the more you see people doing their own thing, the more you might be inspired.”
Musing on social media takes up a lot of our talk together, and I think it’s fair to say Ryder is not a fan. That said, she has tried to temper her views on it of late. “It’s tricky to talk about,” she says, “because I know there are lots of really positive things with sharing on the internet. But for anyone in the public eye who’s kind of a private person…”
What about Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat? She isn’t on any of them. “I don’t even know what Snapchat is. Is it like a short film that disappears?” You see, you do know. “Yes, a friend of mine was telling me at a restaurant, and someone wanted to do it, and I thought it was like an hors d’oeuvre,” she laughs. “It’s a really interesting time right now. Perhaps if I was more savvy, or maybe even ambitious, as I know there’s a whole self-promotion thing, and I do get it. I think my fear is you lose control if you start to engage. I’m not anti it. I’ve come off as really anti in the past, and I think a lot of it is just fear. I don’t really know how to use it. Everybody’s been saying for a while that eventually you’re going to have to join if you want to continue working or being employable. That’s the direction it’s going in.”
They even tell Winona Ryder that? “Well, it’s more something you hear and something I’ve talked about with other actors who are maybe not huge marquee names. If you’re up for something, the financiers look to see how many followers you have, but, you know, I’ve never had a really business-orientated brain.”
Despite her career and the high-profile romances with Johnny Depp and Matt Damon along the way, her absence from the social-media fray has helped to preserve her mystique. It’s a quality Jacobs referenced as important, alongside her “fallen angel” quality. “I’m always drawn to anybody who acts up,” he said.
Ah yes, the fallen-angel period, the infamous shoplifting incident in 2001, when she was caught stealing more than £3,000 of designer clothes and accessories from a Saks Fifth Avenue store in Beverly Hills. Jacobs described it as “high jinks and tomfoolery”. “It was funny,” he says, “because at that point I was giving her clothes constantly. So it was all over the news that she was taking four cashmere sweaters from Marc Jacobs, but she’s got 20 of them already.”
Ryder and I don’t touch on the subject. She has talked about in the past and said: “I didn’t have this tremendous sense of guilt because I hadn’t hurt anyone. Had I physically harmed someone or caused harm to a human being, I think it would have been an entirely different experience.” I can’t help feeling the whole thing was, and may still be, mortifying to her, and not just because she’s such a private person, or because in any recap of her career, her court appearance garners as much of a place as her Oscar-nominated roles in The Age of Innocence and Little Women. But largely because she comes across as an earnest soul who tries so hard to do the right thing.
“I would have this thing for a while where, even if I really wanted a part, if I thought somebody else was more suited, I would recommend them, and then the casting person would think I didn’t want the part and it was really not the case. I never really had a competitive thing. There were certainly parts that I wanted and didn’t get and that I was bummed out about. Maybe it’s because I was just kind of shy. I’ve read articles and essays about how when a woman is ambitious, it’s considered this and that. Not that it’s a bad word, but I think, because I never lost a part to anybody, that I was, like,” she pulls a quizzical face, “‘Really?’” I take this to mean that she never lost a part to someone less deserving than her.
She sent flowers to Jennifer Jason Leigh when she beat her to a part in the Coen brothers comedy The Hudsucker Proxy. “I was so happy for her, and she’s so great.”
Ryder is loyal, too. Today she’s dressed almost top to toe in black Marc Jacobs, except for a large black pullover that is her mother’s and a Bru Na Boinne parka (“If Marc made a parka, I’d be wearing that”). So when I ask if she actually likes make-up, she pauses: “Well, this is for Marc.” Then she laughs: “I’m wearing a little bit today, yes. I usually wear tinted sunscreen and that’s what I’m wearing now, and I do this.” She produces a multistick pencil and goes through the motion of applying it to lips, cheeks and eyelids.
Ryder’s family lived in a commune for three years before she was 10, and I suspect that if she’d never left, or if school had worked out better for her, she’d be just as happy living a life without fame and fortune. But school wasn’t too happy and she ended up getting expelled and being taught at home for a year. “It wasn’t my fault at all. In my memory, I was a very nice kid, but I think people did think I was strange. I was good academically, but socially not so much.” She was already heavily into cinema — her mother had access to film reels as she was a projectionist at a university, and they would play them against a white sheet — and in that year at home, her parents enrolled her in the American Conservatory Theatre, in San Francisco, where she got auditions, an agent, screen tests and, well, you know the rest.
Life seems calm these days. “I’ve gone through some tough times in my life,” she says. “And when I see pictures of myself in those times, I can see it — and maybe not everyone can — on a physical level. It’s just so much about what’s going on inside you.” She is happy doing roles that are interesting to her. “I’ve been told you have to be continually working or you’ll be irrelevant, God forbid, but life is just too short. If you can’t find any joy in it, then I would so much rather just not do it.”
She has never married or had children, but she is dating the fashion designer Scott Mackinlay Hahn of the ecoconscious fashion brand Loomstate. Not that she’ll talk about that, either. Has his presence made her more environmentally aware? “People are still using Styrofoam,” she says with mock horror.
It is only recently that she has felt she can speak out on issues without being considered difficult. “You want to say something and suddenly you’re the diva. What I’ve learnt as I’ve got older is that you can say something. There’s a whole time in your life when you don’t want to be a diva if you’re in the business, because you hear stories — and I don’t mean the good kind of diva like Cher, I mean diva like you’re not nice to work with. So you don’t want to ever say anything. But then you realise you can, and there’s a way to do it.”
Our time is up, and Ryder starts preparing to leave. I ask if I can read her a text a friend sent when he heard I was meeting her and that I think sums up how a whole generation feels about her: “She was just anti-famous cool, and I don’t think anyone has surpassed that coolness since.” Ryder seems genuinely touched: “Oh, that’s so nice.” Is she aware of her coolness? “Oh, my gosh, you can’t spend time thinking about that — that makes you uncool.” And then she does the coolest thing of all: she crosses the room and gives me a big hug goodbye. A proper, all-embracing hug. Yep, Winona Ryder can be as late she wants. I’ll wait.