Inside I was completely lost
From Beetlejuice and Heathers to Edward Scissorhands, Winona Ryder was the ultimate female star of the late 1980s and early 1990s, hailed as a generation-defining actress. She has dated Johnny Depp and Matt Damon. She has accomplished that rare feat of unifying men and women in admiration. But her life has not always been easy. It has been turbulent, it has been public, it has been bittersweet. She is now 37, although forever childlike in the collective consciousness, and she is still a subject of fascination. Read on for the highlights of ELLE’s exclusive interview, written by the director and novelist behind her new film, Rebecca Miller.
On being bullied:
‘We only shopped at the Salvation Army, and I would get these three-piece, 1970s little boy suits. I had really short hair, and the third day of seventh grade, these kids basically jumped me in the hall because they thought I was a gay boy, and they roughed me up… I think when that happened, I kind of went into a movie in my head because I couldn’t deal with what was happening.’
‘Kids would say, “You’re a witch, you’re creepy, you’re crazy.” I was in the number-one movie in the country and I was still being bullied in school.’
On her ‘extra-large breakdown’:
‘I had just done Dracula and Edward Scissorhands. I had just had my first real break-up, the first heartbreak. And I think it was really ironic because, like, everybody else just thought I had everything in the world, you know, I had no reason to be depressed, everything was sort of at its peak, but inside I was completely lost. I remember feeling, ‘I can’t complain about anything, because I’m so lucky, I’m so lucky…’ After that I realised I needed to take time off more [regularly].’
I never wanted to be beautiful
‘I’m so lucky because I really love doing what I do. There have been times when I’ve wanted to stop, but it wasn’t forever. It was just like I needed to stop and get my life together.
On being the leading lady: ‘For a few years after Beetlejuice I was cast as the outcast, so I thought that was my path. I sort of had it in my head that I was going to be a character actress. Then I did Heathers and it was the first time I had convinced people I could play [a pretty girl]. I went to get my make-up done for the audition. And then after that I got more substantial roles. And it’s funny in your career, you’re a leading lady for a while and then you end up wanting the character roles again.’
On her beauty:
‘I thought it was cooler to be interesting than to be pretty. I must have got that from my parents, who felt strongly about being an individual and being your own person and that looks aren’t everything. I always knew that I wasn’t, you know, beautiful. I never wanted to be beautiful, I never wanted to be a cheerleader.
THE FILM PLOT:
THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE
In Rebecca Miller’s novel, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, Moira Dulles (Winona’s character, re-named Sandra for the film, directed by Miller) is the car-crash poet friend of Pippa Lee. Pippa, played by Robin Wright Penn, a fiftysomething devoted wife, loyal friend and talented homemaker, is married to Herb, a man almost 30 years older than herself. But she is beginning to wonder how she ended up in the life she now leads. Few would guess from her veneer of suburban respectability at the wild youth, affairs and encounters that make up her history. Highly-strung, insecure and emotionally splayed, Sandra seems to rely on, almost idolise, the grounded and supportive Pippa – as well as the secure marriage she shares with Herb. But she will eventually betray her loyal friend, proving a key factor in Pippa’s journey towards rediscovering herself.
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee is out on 10 July
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