“People have been saying that for a long time,” Winona Ryder says of her return. Some mark the beginning of that comeback trail with her 2010 “Black Swan” turn, others with her 2001 shoplifting arrest in Beverly Hills. The twice-Oscar-nominated actor drags out the vowel in the word “long” for several beats. “Honestly, I just don’t think about it that much,” she continues. “When something comes along that is special, great. If they want me to do it, great. If not, there’s a lot of other things in my life.”
“I’m very happy in my life,” she continues. “You get to an age and you’re grateful for the work, but I wouldn’t want to be working the way that I used to because it does become all about you and you start to lose perspective. I’ve had an amazing time, but I guess if you’re asking about slowing down, for me, it’s been really nice to come out and do things that I really want to do.”
Since her debut in the 1986 film “Lucas,” forty-one-year-old Ryder has been just slightly less wide-eyed than a Margret Keane painting. And today is no exception. The aperture of her dark eyes flare over the question of what she did for fun on the set of her latest film, “The Iceman,” which tracks her character’s marriage to a real-life contract killer.
“Nothing,” she says, again hanging on that first vowel. “It was a very intense set. We didn’t have a lot of money or time. It wasn’t a long time that I was there, but it was pretty dark. I do appreciate the experience, though, and getting to work with everyone, but we didn’t sit around and talk about the deeper aspects of what was going on with my character.”
“She really didn’t want to know,” the film’s director and co-writer, Ariel Vromen, supplies. “She didn’t read the script even. We delivered her a script with all the scenes she wasn’t in deleted. It was a little tough on me because I’d try and say something and she’d say, ‘Ahhh! I don’t want to know.’ The direction was a little methodic because she chose to live in that denial, accepting the fact that she does not know or even if she knew, she doesn’t want to know. She really lived that. On set, she was that woman.”
In The Iceman, Winona Ryder plays a woman in denial. A woman who doesn’t seem to realize her husband is really a serial-killing hit-man.
And Ryder can relate – kind of.
“I think we all have stuff [from past relationships] we’d rather not think about,” Ryder, 41, told PEOPLE Monday at the special New York screening hosted by Grey Goose. “Or things we remember differently in retrospect, or have selective amnesia [about].”
Ryder’s character, Barbara Kuklinski, is married to notorious contract killer Richard Kuklinski, played by Oscar nominee Michael Shannon. They are based on a real-life couple, and Barbara apparently lived for some time without realizing her husband’s true vocation.
“I don’t think she was [oblivious],” Ryder says. “I think she was in deep denial. She liked her life the way it was, and wasn’t asking the questions she should have been asking.”
She adds, “Following her gut also would have meant messing up her life. It’s a very complex character, and very ambiguous. We’ll never know the truth. Denial is a very powerful thing.”
So, yes, Ryder confirmed jokingly, she’s experienced denial. But “nothing that comes close to anything like that [movie]!”
Ryder – called “a legend” Monday by Shannon and “really great” by costar Ray Liotta – says early buzz about her performance and return to the big screen isn’t registering much.
“I do think I speak for a lot of actors when I say we try to block that stuff out – good or bad,” she says. “I think sometimes it’s not healthy to be listening to all that. But of course it’s always nice to hear nice things.”
“The Iceman” cometh.
Oscar-nominated actors Winona Ryder and Michael Shannon are starring in the intense new crime thriller. Unlike classics such as “The Godfather” or “Goodfellas,” “The Iceman” takes a less glamorous look at the mafia.
The film is based on the true story of notorious hitman Richard Kuklinski (Shannon), a veteran hitman who was hired by several crime families to murder their rivals and informants. Kuklinski earned his “Iceman” nickname because he was viewed as cold-blooded, even by other hitmen. He also liked to freeze his victims so the cops couldn’t determine an accurate time of death. From 1964-1986, Kuklinski is estimated to have racked up more than 100 victims.
Ryder plays Kuklinski’s wife in the film, who was renamed Deborah for the story. The actress sat down for an interview with CBSNews.com to discuss her character, who claimed to have absolutely no knowledge of her husband’s nefarious deeds:
Winona Ryder and co-stars James Franco and Michael Shannon stepped out for a special screening of “The Iceman” in New York last night (April 29). Ryder looked cute and classic in a black Zac Posen dress, while leading man Michael Shannon and co-star James Franco suited-up for the event at the Chelsea Clearview Cinema, and for the Grey Goose after-party at NYC’s Soho House.
Check pictures in our gallery:
“I’ve loved making movies,” Winona Ryder said in Toronto late last year when reflecting back on her 26-year career. “I feel like I’ve been so lucky because I’ve gotten to be in movies that are some of my favorites, regardless of my being in them — like ‘Heathers.'”
Ryder — who turned 42 in October (though she still looks like she’s 30) — made her official debut in the 1986 high school drama “Lucas.” The small, well-received role helped lead to a duo of late 1980s leads — as Lydia in “Beetlejuice” and as Veronica in “Heathers” — that propelled her to become an icon of her generation.
“I was very lucky because Tim Burton really gave me a career,” she said. “I don’t think Hollywood would’ve known what to do with me. If I hadn’t done ‘Beetlejuice,’ I think I would’ve just gone back to my school.”
Ryder also rightfully considers “Heathers” — released a year after “Beetlejuice” in 1989 — a pivotal moment in her early career.
“They didn’t want me for it,” she recalled. “I wasn’t pretty enough. I had to go a mall and get my makeup done, and then I just begged them and begged them. That was a kind of turning point because that was kind of the first movie where I’d played someone who was attractive. And then that led to a lot of films.”
Last night Winona attended a ‘The Iceman’ special screening in Los Angeles, looking beautiful in a retro-style red velvet dress. You can find pictures in our gallery, with a huge thanks to Nicole for sending some of them to us.