Ryder turns action hero in new Alien film

Calgary Sun, November 23 1997

Ryder turns action hero in new Alien film

By Louis B. Hobson

PARIS — In just six months, Winona Ryder went from a 98-lb. weakling to an action hero.

She did it all in the name of art and aliens.

In Alien Resurrection, Ryder plays Call, a mysterious mechanic who finds herself battling a dozen alien creatures on a shuttle headed for Earth.

Call’s greatest ally could actually be a foe.

Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley has been cloned, but some of her DNA may have been mixed with alien DNA.

Ryder, 26, insists she jumped at the chance to be in this third Alien sequel.

“It’s the first time I have signed on to a project without first seeing a script,” says Rider.

“Except for the third instalment, I’m an Alien fanatic.

“I had a poster of Alien on my wall. I moved out of the house when I was 17 (to live with Johnny Depp), but I asked my parents not to take it down. It’s still there.”

Ryder was eight years old when she first saw Alien in 1979. She and her two brothers caught an early showing its opening day in San Francisco.

“I was so taken by the film that I made my brothers hide with me in the theatre while the ushers cleaned the auditorium so we could see it a second time.”

It was Weaver’s portrayal of Ripley that so appealed to Ryder.

“I had never seen a woman kick butt in a movie before. It had an incredible effect on me. I already knew at eight that I wanted to be an actress. I just prayed that one day, I could be in a movie where the women were the superheroes.”

When her script for Alien Resurrection arrived, Ryder panicked. There was a crucial underwater scene and Ryder had a phobia about holding her breath underwater.

“When I was 12, I technically drowned,” she recalls.

“I’d cut classes with some of my friends to go down to the beach. I got caught in a rip-tide.

“My friends were no help. They were all stoned, so they just stood there freaking out.”

A lifeguard pulled Ryder out, only to discover she had no pulse. He gave her CPR, eventually reviving her.

“I was never able to go underwater after that. The studio said they’d give me a stunt double for the underwater sequence, but when I arrived on set, they discovered my hair was too short to match the double.”

Ryder got her own private scuba instructor and eventually conquered her fears. She proudly announces that today she dives and snorkels.

When Ryder is not making films or enjoying her friends’ pools, she’s flying around the world to attend concerts of her favourite bands.

She has dated her fair share of rock musicians and was almost engaged to Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner.

“I was raised on rock music. My father loved the Sex Pistols, the Dead Kennedys and Black Flag. My favourite band was Clash.”

It was their mutual love of music that brought Ryder and Depp together. They were Hollywood’s young rebels. Their affair and their break-up were both played out in public.

“The press was interested in us because Johnny is such a romantic figure. It was my first love and it was a fiercely deep, true thing. First love is like that for everyone.”

It’s only recently that Depp and Ryder have become friends again and she is extremely grateful.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to think of Johnny again without getting a knot in my stomach. We’re not really close friends yet, but we’re getting there.”

Ryder says she and Pirner are “like buddies. He’s one of my very best friends. I hope some day Johnny and I will reach that level.”

Ryder says she’s not `in love’ these days, but is `in a good space.’

“I’m happy with my personal life and my professional life.”

Ryder says it was only during her period as Depp’s girlfriend that she was bothered by paparazzi.

“Even then I didn’t have to have a bodyguard. I’ve never been considered a movie star. I’m just an actress.

“I don’t feel threatened like Julia Roberts. Pretty Woman turned her into an overnight celebrity rather than an actress. Now her whole career is about box-office — if her movies don’t break $l00-million. It’s not a burden I’d ever want to carry.”

Ryder’s closest industry friends are Gwyneth Paltrow and Claire Danes. The actresses keep in constant touch.

“We ask for advice on choosing scripts and on choosing boyfriends.”