Author: Nigel Goodall

The Star Who Vanished Article


The Sunday Times Culture Magazine: 14.10.12

“Winona has been animated at last…”

She changed the way cinema depicts women, then disappeared. Reunited with Tim Burton on a new cartoon, Winona tells Jonathan Dean what it’s like to be lost.

The slow crawl to Disneyland, on roads such as Magic Way, is lined with palm trees. At two in the afternoon on what the radio announces is the second day of autumn, they’re the only shelter other than Buzz Lightyear banners or the vast foyer of the Grand Californian Hotel. The latter is accomodation designed by fans of The Shining: floral chic, cobwebbed, brainwashed staff. Kids in swimming costumes run around in Mickey Mouse ears. I head staright for the lift.

Why is a thitrysomething man hanging out in Walt’s kingdom all by himself? The answer, oddly, is the icon of early-1990s cinema, the goth poster girl for the alternative nation, Winona Ryder, who is waiting in a suite on the hotel’s fourth floor. I’m also going to spend the half-hour with Martin Short, but I haven’t really told anyone that. He’s lovely telling me about a recent family reunion in London with his “fabulous” politician cousin, Clare, but you don’t fly 11 hours to meet Martin Short. He was hilarious in Father of the Bride, but, with the best will in the world, he has never changed the way people make films. Ryder, though, did.

Dressed in loose black trousers, a black jacket and a white T-shirt, with her hair tied back, she talks with a quiver in her voice, brown eyes darting, eager to please or, maybe, just nice. Short is in a casual suit, reclining on a sofa, staring at me like an ever-watchful chaperone. Yes, Ryder shoplifted back in 2001, but for anyone who wants to continue to laugh at that, there’s the internet. Besides Hollywood has worse. People still work with Roman Polanski. Ryder’s hero, Jodie Foster has a close relationship with Mel Gibson. This is an industry that rewards sinners who aren’t contrite. Ryder has constantly said she’s sorry. Continue reading

The Lost Lucas Article

Winona’s biographer, Nigel Goodall, wrote this article for the 25th anniversary of Lucas for a magazine that never ran with it due to re-scheduling of features at the time, and rather than leave it unseen and unread, Nigel has kindly given it to us  to publish online, so here it is…


The stylist for one of Winona’s first photo shoots just over twenty years ago knew that Winona would someday be famous. ‘She was just really focused,’ Abby Minot told me in 2002. ‘She had this vision. You could just tell she was going places.’

And of course, Abby was right. Looking back twenty-five years to the opening of Lucas and to the first time the cinema-going public first cast their eyes on Winona Ryder, most agreed that, even though she would only appear in eight scenes and her role as Rina almost seemed like an afterthought, it was enough to get Winona noticed and confirm the kind of character she would play for the next five years of her career: the alienated teenager.

If there was any doubt, one only had to take a look at the press kit for the movie, which described Winona as ‘fragile with a certain poetic justice.’ And the critics agreed. The New York Daily News credited ‘Winona for turning a small part into a memorable one’, and Variety’s Todd McCarthy remarked that Winona ‘constantly but quietly stole all Kerri Green’s scenes.’ Roger Ebert writing in the Chicago Sun Times said it was easily ‘one of the year’s best films’ and doubted if anyone of any age could give a more sensitive and effective performance.’ In fact, there weren’t many critics that didn’t rave about her performance. According to the general consensus, it was ‘deft, remarkable, and fetching.’ So perhaps it is no wonder that Winona had the critics on her side even before the film was released twenty years ago today.

Certainly her performance in her first moments on screen would compound the cinema-going public with general critical opinion that Winona Ryder, the girl with the alert expressive eyes that telegraphed a startling combination of intelligence, gravity and self-possession was indeed someone to watch. ‘There is something strangely magical and wistful about her, that is ultimately reflected in her performance,’ said director David Seltzer at the time, and later observed how ‘she was sympathetic playing a child who thought she would never be beautiful.’ It was, he continues ‘very poignant because she was clearly about to blossom into a beautiful young woman herself.’

I am not sure though, that Winona would agree. The first time she watched the film at a screening with the rest of the cast, she says, ‘I was just really scared to see my face that big. It was such a shock that people had just seen me act.’ In the end though, she went to see it another two times. Once in San Francisco when it opened there at the Galaxy Theater, and once in Santa Rosa, where, recalls Winona, ‘a lady sitting in front of me said to the guy she was with that I looked sad on the screen. I guess she meant the part about being hopelessly in love. I wanted to ask her what she meant, but instead I started really looking at myself on the screen. It’s hard to be objectve about your own performance.’

Lucas opened on 628 screens in the United States on 28 March 1986 and during its opening weekend had taken $1,250,101 at the box office, ultimately its gross topped eight million and earned itself three Young Artist Award nominations.


If you want to read more about the making of Lucas, there is more behind the scenes info in Nigel’s biography of Winona, which is curently available from Amazon as a POD paperback and eBook.


We are pleased to announce that Nigel Goodall’s biography of Winona will soon be available as a Print On Demand (POD) paperback. The POD will have existing eBook front cover artwork, with a new back cover that will be a graduated matching colour to the front cover with descriptive text. The interior text of the book will, of course, be the same as the eBook version. It is to be made available via all normal book retailers, wholesalers and via Amazon in the UK, Europe and the USA. Release date is yet to be confirmed.

From the original 1998 cover blurb…

In little more than ten years, and by none of the traditional routes, Winona Ryder has firmly established herself as the single most exciting actress of her generation. A child star who literally grew up in front of the camera, Winona is the first American actress since Natalie Wood to successfully transcend a career from adolescence to adulthood.

From her first moments on screen when she sidled out of a crowd of teenage children in David Seltzer’s Lucas and said “Hi! How was your summer?” Winona Ryder has been someone to watch. Her alert, expressive eyes telegraph a startling combination of intelligence, gravity and self possession rarely seen in the cinema today.

Intensely private, secretive, and guarded, Winona Ryder has been a public figure for more than half her life, and whereas her private persona remains an unwritten book, her public life demands attention. Now only in her mid-twenties, Winona is still growing as a person and developing as the most admired and important actress.

Now, this definitive biography traces how she came to arrive in Hollywood to make her motion picture debut at the age of thirteen, and how she reached the enviable postion of building a career strictly on her own terms by carefully avoiding the brat-pack blockbusters and rejecting the advice of agents, directors and other Hollywood insiders.

The book charts how Winona has won the respect and admiration of fans throughout the world with her offbeat beauty, fiery intelligence, wry wit and quirky charm through her early teen misfit roles in such classics as Beetlejuice, Heathers and Edward Scissorhands, and how her Academy Award nominated roles in The Age of Innocence and Little Women established her as a serious and respected actress, to her later mature roles in The Crucible, Alien Resurrection and Woody Allen’s Celebrity.

It tells a uniquely different Hollywood story from Winona’s unconventional childhood raised on a California commune surrounded by such counterculture figures as Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlingetti, and Winona’s late godfather, Timothy Leary; of her troubled school years, from being vicously attacked by school bullies through her independent home study to enrolling in drama classes at San Francisco’s prestigious American Conservatory Theatre, making her first fillm, and borrowing her name from Sixties rocker Mitch Ryder.

The book gives a detailed account of a remarakbale career in a decade of making over twenty films that has included notoriety of being engaged to Hollywood rebel Johnny Depp; of her dedication to the search for missing children through her crusade to find kidnapped, and later murdered child, Polly Klaas; and of the drive that causes her to be constantly working even through physical exhaustion, and her refusal to conform to the Hollywood ideal of fame.

This affectionate and immensely readable biography is based on Winona Ryder’s own memories and recollections through her media interviews as well as those from friends, relatives, directors, colleagues and co-stars.

About the Book…

The book was the first British biography of Winona to be published in 1998. It was nominated for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction, became a Daily Telegraph bestseller, and the source for several major TV documentaries transmitted in the UK, USA and Canada. The book also won its author, Nigel Goodall, recognition as Ryder’s key biographer. His research archives still serve to this day as a primary resource for television, magazines and libraries.

An eBook edition of the original paperback, with new cover design, and completely revised by restoring passages cut out of the original manuscript together with the addition of new material that covers the same period of the original print edition, was made available, under license from Nigel Goodall, in 2010 by digital distributor Andrews UK.

Trailer for the Ebook Edition of Winona’s Biography

On Set With Winona

The following article, originally published in the Winona Fanzine UK, was written by a fan who describes how he landed a part as a crowd extra in the opera scene for The Age of Innocence.


In early 1992, I heard that The Age of Innocence, then entering production, would be filming on location in New York and Philadelphia (my home). I was alert to the possibility of trying out as an extra, and the local newspaper entertainment section finally mentioned that there would be an open casting call at a downtown hotel. As I was “between jobs” at the time, I was available to give it a shot.

Extra casting doesn’t really involve an audition. They’re really just seeking people with the appropriate look. In this case, they were somewhat frustrated, in that the 1870s opera audience they sought to fill would ideally be made up of middle-aged to older people…i.e, the sort least likely to take two or three working days off to “go be in a show”. I think I owe my good fortune at being selected to the fact that I was more “conventional” looking than many of the hip young “actor” types who showed up. I was one of about 100 people who were lined up as extras in advance and fitted for costumes. Ultimately they “shanghaied” about 200-300 more people during the two days of shooting and dressed them in rented tuxes or plain dresses to fill out the background. Even then, they resorted to cardboard cut-outs placed in the Academy of Music seats to make the place look full.

Continue reading

Nigel Goodall Guest Post


Hi Everyone!

I am really thrilled to have been invited to do a guest post for Winona Forever. I had quite a few options what to write about, but most of all, I wanted to share some of the stories that didn’t end up in my biography of Winona,  first published some 13 years ago.

I guess if I was writing the book today it would be quite different to the original version, and would probably, in parts, paint a completely different portrait of her. When it was being considered for an update by my publisher following the shoplifting saga and trial, the main criteria for the update would have been to re-write some of the inaccuracies that appeared in the original, which have only  come to light in the years since publication. For example, her place of birth, which was not in Winona as it happens, but in the nearby city of Omstead County in Minnesota. Another would be to re-discuss her screen test for Lucas, which she actually did with River Phoenix  – and also to include first-time details about her influences not mentioned in the book, such as Ruth Gordon and silent movie star Louise Brooks, and to talk about River’s Edge, the film she was meant to audition for in 1986, but due to a sex scene, her parents wouldn’t allow her to do it. I would certainly have set out to offer some insight into what really happened inside Saks Fifth Avenue in December 2001, and also to offer a definitive explanation into the infamous fallout with Gwyneth Paltrow.

I do hope you will be fascinated by what follows! Thank you so much to Winona Forever for allowing me to share some memories of what still remains my favourite book out of all the ones I have written over the last 20 years.

Huge thanks to you all, Nigel.


From Chapter 3: The Road To Hollywood

About Winona’s nightmare of moving to Petaluma…

Even the horror of stealing a comic book turned into an equal nightmare. She was immediately put under citizen’s arrest, handcuffed, and hurled into the back of a police car. ‘Then the police brought me home, and my parents tried to beat them up.’ To journalist Hilary Johnson it sounded ‘like the perfect childhood,’ especially when it turns out ‘that your parents beat up the cops when you get arrested for shoplifting!’

About Winona being asked to leave school after being beaten-up…
Even so the incident was enough to persuade Winona that she wasn’t going back there. All she could do was fall on her knees in front of her mother and plea, ‘Mom, I’m not going back another day.’ Outraged by the attack, Michael and Cindy agreed. But they were equally outraged by the school itself. It seemed rather than discipline the bullies for their violent aggression, the school chose to implicate Winona in their stead. Even more strange, as far as Winona was concerned, was the fact that ‘I’m this twelve year old, and Petaluma Kenilworth Junior High School, tells me to leave because I was a distraction. I’m sorry that gay bashing was such a distraction for them. I didn’t want to go back anyway. I was too scared.’
Kenilworth itself however could not uncover any record of the incident, or indeed of Winona being asked to leave. That’s not to suggest that it didn’t occur, or that Winona’s recollection of events isn’t accurate. Far from it. What is questionable however is whether the principal at the time had simply overlooked recording the details. Whatever the reasons, today the school is disheartened to discover that Winona’s time at Kenilworth was so traumatic, and more importantly, that no explanation can be offered for the absence of school records relating to the attack on her. During an investigation into the story Winona had told Life magazine for a December 1994 feature, Dr Kim Jamieson, the deputy superintendent for the Petaluma School District, could find no evidence, nor could he persuade Michael and Cindy to talk about it. He did however corroborate that any such abusive behaviour of students today would simply be targeted as unacceptable by Kenilworth or for that matter, any other junior high in California.

From Chapter 4: Hot Actress

About making her first movie…
Winona admits to finding her new world of cinema confusing and distracting, probably made worse by having to contend with her first period while making the movie. It was so symbolic, she recalls now. ‘I just remember feeling really horrible and – not to get graphic or anything – you don’t know really what’s happening but you do feel this is a really weird moment. I just remember saying this line – “Did you have a good summer, Lucas?” or something – and in the middle of saying it, feeling something inside me. And I just kind of knew it. Even then I was like, I can’t believe this is happening to me. It was just a drag. It’s not anything I ever wanted to get. My memory of the shoot was an impression of haste,‘ she laughs. That said, ‘I learned very fast.’ It was, after all, she continues ‘a great first experience,’ even if it did have similar parallels to high school, ‘you know, kids gossiping, kind of immature.’

And watching it for the first time….
But the first time Winona watched the film, ‘I was just really scared to see my face that big. It was such a shock that people had just seen me act.’ In the end though, she went to see it another two times. Once in San Francisco when it opened there at the Galaxy Theater in April 1986, and once in Santa Rosa, where Winona recalls ‘a lady sitting in front of me said to the guy she was with that I looked sad on the screen. I guess she meant the part about being hopelessly in love. I wanted to ask her what she meant, but instead I started really looking at myself on the screen but it’s hard to be objective about your own performance.’

About Beetlejuice…
Critical reaction, too, was delightful for both the film as a comedy classic, and the emergence of a new, fully-formed star. The New York Times critic Caryn James described Winona’s character as ‘the most intelligent comic portrayal’ in the movie, while another New York Times writer, Janet Maslin, thought that Winona’s Lydia drifting in and out throughout the movie was ‘much creepier than the ghosts themselves.’ An observation shared by Glen Shadix who played Otho, one of the Deetzes arty friends from New York. ‘It was no secret that Winona was at the beginning of a major career,’ he today recalls. ‘She was the most possessed and charming 15-year-old I’d ever met. This kid had projects in development and could come up with a movie idea and pitch it from beginning to end in the time it took to eat a tossed salad during lunch in the commissary. And she didn’t have a “slick child actor” bone in her body.’

From Chapter 5: Que Sera, Sera

About Winona’s ill health during the filming of Great Balls of Fire…
‘It was awful,’ shudders Winona. ‘I couldn’t sleep or eat or anything. I was on these penicillin-type drugs. Finally they brought a doctor in to give me a shot, and even he was freaked out. He thought the whole film depended on me surviving. he had this horse needle and he was so nervous that he kept missing the veins on my arms. So finally he just jerked it out of my arm and without even telling me, gave me a shot in the butt!’ It was, she said, ‘my only vivid memory of London.’

About the real Myra Lewis praising Winona’s performance in the film…
Myra, too, was full of praise for Winona’s performance. The two met when Myra was invited to attend one of the screenings of the dailies. It was where Winona, dressed in a Brady Boys T-shirt and jeans, would normally sit behind Jim McBride with her hands on his shoulders, and Dennis Quaid would slip into the chair behind her, to ease her onto his lap. Even attending journalists were quick to point out the closeness. ‘Whether she can’t keep her hands off the guys or they can’t keep theirs off her, she and her director and her co-star remain in pretty constant physical contact whenever they’re in the same room.’
But the day she watched Myra watching her, she was understandably nervous. ‘We were showing her some stuff where he was picking her up from school and says “I’m gonna marry you.” I looked over and she was crying, and I was so scared because I didn’t know what she was crying about. I didn’t know if she was crying because I was a bad actress or that it was so real. And then she turned to me, and hugged me, and said “You’re a gift from God.” It was probably the most amazing feeling that I’ve ever had in connection with acting.’ Equally astonishing, noted Premiere magazine, was ‘how precisely this young actress, this girl born in 1971, conveys the way thirteen year old girls looked at the boys in the ‘50s – whisperingly, if you will, with their mouths, but purely.’

From Chapter 8: Adult Roles

About Winona’s nude scene cut from Bram Stoker’s Dracula…

Winona, however, took pains to ensure that the erotic connection was not so uncontrollable that she would completely abandon herself to passion. In one scene, for example, when Mina tears wildly at her bodice as she writhes in the vampire’s embrace, her clothing remains firmly adhered to her body. But for another, seen by your narrator on a workprint video, and cut from the campfire sequence of the final movie, the script demanded she seductively pulls open her corset to induce Van Helsing (Hopkins) into caressing her bare breast and kissing her nipple. But with her face far-off camera, the moment is never more than insinuated it is Winona.

Besides ‘I won’t do nudity’ she repeated. It was even written in her contract to prove it. But if she was breaking her own cardinal rule to appear semi-nude, she had her reasons. ‘When you go through the whole process of becoming a vampire, you try to get everything off you. You become very animalistic, and an animal wouldn’t want to be in a corset. That’s why I was pulling on my clothing. There was a lot of footage, which they didn’t use, where I wasn’t doing that. It looks now as if that was all I was doing, when there were maybe two moments that I did.’

Obviously, continues Winona, ‘exposing yourself, just in general, is difficult. But when you’re working with people like Francis and Michael Ballhaus (the cinematographer) and our incredible camera crew, it’s a lot easier than working with real strangers. Everybody was protective; there was no gawking. It wasn’t an atmosphere where you felt unsafe. It was very respectful.’


Although Nigel’s biography of Winona has been unavailable for some years, it is now available again as an eBook from Amazon UK and Amazon US and is soon to be made available as a Print On Demand (POD) version for those who would prefer a print book to a digital version! For further information where to buy the ebook version, visit Nigel’s website at