Witchy Winona

TV Hits (Australia), February 1997

Witchy Winona

Winona Ryder’s called “The Crucible” her “most difficult role to date” and we’re about to see why! Yes, that bewitching tale of witchcraft and revenge in 1600’s Salem is upon us… and Winnie gets really evil!

Who do you play in “The Crucible”? I play Abigail Williams who has an affair with a much older married man, John Proctor (played by Daniel Day-Lewis). She’s thrown out of the house, given a terrible reputation and he denies even touching her. She takes revenge by accusing him of witchcraft for which he is punished. She develops these psychosomatic reactions like giving herself a fever and she really starts to believe that she is a saint and that the village ought to be cleansed. She starts to go insane!

What kind of relationship do you have with Daniel Day-Lewis? Well, what was great was that I had worked with him before on “The Age of Innocence” so I knew how he worked and how private he was. I have known him for so many years and there is still so much I have to learn about him.

Have you ever felt vengeful like Abigail does? No, I haven’t contemplated getting 17 people hung like she does! I just don’t have that kind of streak in me, though it has been hard when things go wrong in relationships. Sure, I’ve become very angry over some things but I don’t think calculated revenge to that extent comes into it. I think I have been pretty lucky with relationships! There have been a few times when I’ve had to pull a few strings to get what I want but it has always been on the right side of sanity.

Do you think modern-day audiences will relate to the 1600’s witchcraft aspects in the film? Yes, I think it is stunningly relevant to today. Mass hysteria is something that we still deal with in every country. As human beings, it’s our nature to “witch-hunt”, to find a scapegoat.

Do you believe in witchcraft? I never really believed in the devil or bad witches before. I’m superstitious about other things but that’s not one of them. But I do believe in spirits. For example, I really didn’t think I was going to get this role. I was petrified and thought I’d get fired right away. Now, I think a spirit helped me get the part. I often feel like something is guiding me.

Is there any spirit in particular that’s been helping you? Well, there is one woman my grandmother knew. I had a lot of family members who died in the Holocaust, in the camps. My grandmother is still alive and she has a lot of letters and pictures of relatives and there’s this one particular relative who was my age when she died. She was a violinist and actor and she looked like me. I think she is the one.

How long has she been guiding you? I have had this feeling for the last eight years that she was there and guiding me and helping me with my performances.

Do you think there are women who could be classified as witches today? Well, my mom is a midwife and she’s part of a lot of women’s circles who practise white witchcraft. They do healing and they perform ceremonies.

Have you seen your mom at work? Yeah, I’ve watched about 50 children being born in my life because of what my mother does. They were all born naturally with no anaesthetist, just using herbs, candlelight and music and everyone of those births was successful.

Would you choose natural childbirth after seeing that? Oh, yeah, definitely. If your mom is a midwife, I don’t think you have a choice. She’s the one who is going to deliver my baby.

You said this was your toughest role yet, how did you wind down? I couldn’t! I’m often able to let go of the character at the end of the day, but with this film, every scene was so incredible intense that the cast was walking around like strung-out zombies for four months.

After the final shoot, did you relax easily? No, it took me a while. I haven’t worked since I made the film a year ago, and that’s probably because of the movie. I went through a pretty bad depression afterwards. But it was probably one of the best experiences of my life, acting-wise and creatively.

Did this intensity and depression affect your relationships? Only in the sense that I leaned on my family more, but they enjoy having me to stay. After filming, I fled home to my family and ate a lot of chicken soup and got my feet rubbed! I was spoiled!

Do you have a boyfriend to run home to? At the moment I’m currently happy with myself. I’m just spending a lot of time with myself, that’s how it is.

What qualities do you look for in a boyfriend? Probably just all the obvious ones like intelligence, humour and a good heart. Looks? Well that would be nice too!

Does the media give you a hard time over your boyfriends? No, I really don’t have many problems with the media. The worst that’s ever happened to me is I’ve been linked to some fabulous guy that I wish I was going out with! (Laughs).

Tell us about your next film “Alien 4”. Well, I’ve always been a big science-fiction buff and “Alien” especially had a huge impact on me when I saw it because Sigourney Weaver was the first female action hero I ever saw. It was really flattering to be offered the role.

Why haven’t you been offered action roles before? It has to do with my tiny size, I suppose. I’m not a giant like Sigourney! But I’m very excited about it!