Our gallery was updated with screencaptures of Winona’s latest work, Experimenter, that was released on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital last January 5. The film, directed by Michael Almereyda, stars Peter Saarsgard as the social psychologist Stanley Milgram, which in 1961 conducted the “obedience experiments” at Yale University. The experiments observed the responses of ordinary people asked to send harmful electrical shocks to a stranger. Despite pleadings from the person they were shocking, 65 percent of subjects obeyed commands from a lab-coated authority figure to deliver potentially fatal currents. Winona plays Sasha Menkin Milgram, his wife.
Winona promoted the film on Sundance Festival, on San Francisco Festival and on New York Film Festival, before being released in October. Experimenter was high rated at Rotten Tomatoes score with 88% Fresh.
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.
The Huffington Post marked the 25 years old release of Edward Scissorhand (that’s being re-released via restored, special-edition Blu-Ray) in a phone chat with screenwriter Caroline Thompson and production designer Bo Welch. On the chat they talked how was the approach with Tim Burton, how they dealt with shooting in a real neighborhood, and how was to deal with the studio back then.
On crafting the story:
Thompson: “Tim had just done ‘Pee-wee’s Big Adventure’ and I had written a novel that was sort of an angrier, more adolescent precursor — a ‘Frankenstein’-style story — to ‘Edward Scissorhands,’ and we were represented by the same agency. The agents didn’t know what to do with him and they didn’t know what to do with me, so they introduced us. We had lunch together and we immediately felt a bond and became very good friends. Tim told me about a drawing he had made in high school of a character who had scissors instead of hands and I said, ‘Stop right now. I kind of know exactly what to do with that.’ And three weeks later, I gave him a 70-page prose treatment version of what actually was very close to the movie that we made.”
On adding to Tim Burton’s aesthetic:
Welch: “I had done ‘Beetlejuice’ with Tim, which was a learning experience for me, so by the time I did ‘Edward Scissorhands’ with Tim, I totally got his aesthetic. I’m there basically to serve his vision of the film. Tim draws very well, so mainly he’d draw characters. I remember, early on, looking at the drawing of Edward Scissorhands that he had done, and like all of his drawings, it ended up looking just like the character looks in the film, more or less. I looked at those as my cue on where to go design-wise, but in reading the script, I’d read about where Edward lives and where he comes from and his adjacency to a model suburban neighborhood. And I asked, ‘So these two things that are so different are going to coexist in the same film?’ And Tim goes, ‘Yes!’ First I designed where Edward lives, and then we scouted neighborhoods, by photographs, all over the U.S. looking for new suburbs. We landed on Florida because it just looked more graphic and it had interesting skies. Those two elements, I think, create kind of a friction next to one another. That’s the magic of that.”
On writing Edward:
Thompson: “I based the character of Edward Scissorhands on a combination of my dog and Tim. It was a love letter to Tim, really. The character was based on a dog that I had who was so ridiculously present that if she had had the physiological ability I swear she could have talked. And if you examine Edward, that’s what he’s like. He’s this dog that’s like, ‘What do you need? Here I am.’ Somebody once counted the number of words that he says in the script and I can’t recall it precisely, but I think it’s something south of 150 words. He’s basically a nonverbal character. He’s a beautiful, wild-eyed dog. Johnny nailed my dog.”
To read the full interview, head over The Huffington Post.