Now in her 40s, Winona Ryder is finally getting what she wants. “I feel like only recently I’ve hit a point where I’m actually old enough to play my age, which is a tremendous relief,” says Ryder when we sat down at the Crosby Street Hotel last Tuesday. An icon of 90s culture, Ryder became the decade’s go-to “waifish ingenue” with films like Reality Bites, Heathers, and Girl, Interrupted but has moved beyond that in her career, and is now getting to take on the more mature roles she’s always wanted to play. With her latest film, Michael Almereyda’s Experimenter, Ryder portrays Sasha Milgram, the wife of controversial social psychologist Stanley Milgram, whose obedience experiments shocked the 1960s. Starring opposite a compelling Peter Saarsgard, Ryder delivers a delicate yet captivating performance as the woman who was not only his partner, but his emotional anchor. Breaking down the barriers between memory and reality, Almereyda brings his imaginative and intelligent touch to the story of Milgram’s work, crafting a character portrait in the way only he can.
With Experimenter out in theaters this Friday, we sat down with Ryder to chat more about working with Almereyda, the female characters she admires, and re-teaming with Tim Burton for Beetlejuice.
I’m such a fan of Michael’s films. It’s the way he chooses to approach universally known material and make it totally his own that’s so interesting—whether it’s Stanley Milgram or Hamlet.
Me too! He’s actually someone I’ve known since I was 16.
How did you meet him then?
I met him at the Independent Spirit Awards the year Down by Law was there.
A new amazing interview done to The Daily Beast about Homefront, Beetlejuice, Hollywood and… Homeland! Check it:
Winona Ryder is whispering to me.
I have just stepped inside an anonymous suite on the 15th floor of the Four Seasons Beverly Hills, which has been overtaken by the PR team for Homefront, the new meth-head action film written by Sylvester Stallone. Jason Statham, who plays an undercover drug cop turned single dad trying to protect his daughter from drugland lowlifes, is doing his interviews in another room. So are Kate Bosworth (an angry addict) and James Franco (the dangerous local dealer). But itâ€™s Winona Iâ€™m here to see. Winona forever.
The 42-year-old Minnesota native has had her ups and downs. The ups are legendary: Lucas, Beetlejuice, Heathers, Edward Scissorhands, Mermaids, Night on Earth, Bram Stokerâ€™s Dracula, The Age of Innocence, Reality Bites. The list goes on.
Ryderâ€™s downs are famous, too. The shoplifting incident. The prescription painkiller abuse. The anxiety and depression. And the half-decade hiatus that followed.
In recent years, however, Ryder has returned to the screen in a series of smaller, quirkier roles. Each timeâ€”Star Trek, Black Swan, The Icemanâ€”she has proven that her iconic status is no fluke.
Which brings us to Homefrontâ€”and Ryderâ€™s whispering. As the PR folks slip into the bedroom and gingerly close the door, leaving me and Winona alone together, she leans in and makes a confession.
â€œI havenâ€™t seen the movie, so…â€ She smiles apologetically. She looks immaculate: black blazer, dark, longish hair, perfect skin, perfect teeth. If I didnâ€™t know her age, I would say she was about 30. I promise not to interrogate her too aggressively about Homefront.
To be honest, I think Ryder is the best thing about the movie. She brings layers of vulnerability, confusion, and conscience to a drug-moll character that might otherwise have been a one-dimensional clichÃ©.
But like Ryderâ€”who is so eager to tell me about her other new project, the â€œamazingâ€ BBC political thriller Turks and Caicos by David Hare, that I have to gently steer her back to the topic at hand before our interview can startâ€”I would probably prefer to talk about other subjects as well: Beetlejuice 2, Reality Bites, how Hollywood has changed over the last 20 years, why aging is so much more complicated for actresses than actors. Even Homeland.
So thatâ€™s what we proceed to do.
So, finally, some video from Homefront premiere in Las Vegas. Entertainment Tonight interviewed the stars at the red carpet. Winona appears on 1:40 mark.
To promote the release of Homefront, Winona is cover of V Magazine in an AMAZING shoot by Mario Testino. You can find previews up in the gallery, and the article as well under the cut:
YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WINONA
â€œBeetlejuice, Tim Burton, my first relationship, the air-quotes â€˜incidentâ€™ that happened, and then the couple of awkward years of â€˜comeback, question mark?â€™â€
Winona Ryder, star of more than 50 films, is laughing while reciting the usual topics brought up on interview junkets. â€œItâ€™s no fault of the press, they only have a few minutes with each person. But itâ€™s like, Does everybody have AMNESIA?!â€ She delivers this last sentence with a shrill Midwestern accent, because sheâ€™s quoting Kathy Bates in Misery. Conversations with Winona come peppered with major movie moments such as thisâ€”a habit both endearing and dangerous, should any reporter unschooled in film trivia fail to notice sheâ€™s merely being playful. Hereâ€™s another:
â€œIn one way, itâ€™s not offensive at all. But itâ€™s like, the word â€˜comebackâ€™ makes you feel like youâ€™re standing in line for another chance, like in Oliver when he steps up and says â€˜Please sir, can I have some more?â€™ â€˜MORE?!â€™â€
When Winona Ryder turned 40, she reached a landmark age that would send many Hollywood actresses into a tailspin and into the arms of a cosmetic surgeon. For Ryder, however, it was cause for celebration and optimism about what the future might hold. â€œI love getting older,â€ she says. â€œAnd I was really excited to turn 40. I feel like the older you get, the more yourself you become, and I think the roles, even if they are smaller, are more interesting.â€
And itâ€™s true. Lately, sheâ€™s been playing some meaty characters â€“ an ageing ballerina crushed at giving way to a younger dancer in Black Swan, the wife of a hitman in her latest, The Iceman â€“ and even though they are not the leading roles of her teen heyday, sheâ€™s not complaining.
â€œBeing the ingÃ©nue is fun for a while, and if you are lucky you get a couple of years. I feel like I got really lucky because I had a lot longer than that. And part of me never thought that I would still be acting now, so I relish the work. Thereâ€™s a lot of pressure in Hollywood on women to stay younger looking, which I donâ€™t quite understand.â€