Tough little woman

Express Writer, November 1997

Tough little woman

Ryder loved the idea of kicking alien butt

By Louis B. Hobson

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

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

The fourth in the legendary series of Alien movies opens Friday, again starring Sigourney Weaver as Ripley.

Ryder says she jumped at the chance to be in the third sequel. “It’s the first time I have signed on to a project without seeing a script,” she says.

“Except for the third installment, 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 when she first saw Alien in 1979. She and her two brothers caught an early showing on 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 super-heroes.”

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

“When I was 12, I technically drowned. I’d cut classes with some of my friends to go down to the beach. I got caught in a riptide. 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 favorite 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 favorite band was the Clash.”

It was their mutual love of music that brought Ryder and Depp together. They were Hollywood’s young rebels. Their affair and their breakup 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.

“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 there is no significant other in her life these days but adds she is “in a good space.

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

WINONA RYDER FILM HISTORY

Once neatly classified as a Gen-X heartthrob thanks to films like Reality Bites, Winona Ryder shows signs she will grow up to be a Hollywood leading lady.

The young actress continues to make interesting role choices, shrewdly mixing big-budget fare, like Friday’s Alien Resurrection, with more screen adaptations of literary works, including last year’s The Crucible.

Ryder made her film debut in 1986’s Lucas and has received two Academy Award nominations, for The Age of Innocence (1993) and Little Women (1994).

Here are her other films:
Square Dance (1987).
Beetlejuice (1988).
Great Balls of Fire (1989).
Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael, Mermaids, Edward Scissorhands (1990).
Night on Earth (1991).
Dracula (1992).
The House of the Spirits (1993).
Reality Bites (1994).
How to Make An American Quilt (1995).
Looking For Richard (1996).