By Wendy Metcalfe
November 30, 2007 12:00am
WINONA Ryder believes actors are nauseating – particularly when they complain about their pampered lives.
“We’re sickeningly well-paid people who have charmed lives. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have problems,” says Ryder, the star of films as diverse as Alien: Resurrection, Heathers, Edward Scissorhands and the upcoming Sex And Death 101 opposite Australian actors Simon Baker and Sophie Monk.
Ryder, 35, has a point. It could even be argued that since she was convicted for shoplifting from a Beverly Hills department store in 2001, the problems have overshadowed the acting.
Anything written about her almost has to start with the offence that earned her 480 hours of community service, even before her achievements can be mentioned (she has had two Oscar nominations: one for Little Women, the other for Age Of Innocence). Without the shoplifting conviction, Winona Ryder would undoubtedly be one of the biggest actresses in the world.
Now, not only is the story the first thing anyone thinks of when her name is mentioned, but she’s so painfully aware of it she finds it hard to put herself out there.
This year, she refused to go to Cannes with Keanu Reeves, her co-star in upcoming film A Scanner Darkly. Reeves thinks she wasn’t ready to have to deal with questions about the incident while even her signature on a petition to pressure the Bush administration into signing the Kyoto Agreement on climate change was refused as she was a convicted felon.
“That was pretty embarrassing,” she says, downplaying the effect it had on her.
Born to alternative parents she dotes on, Ryder was raised on a commune with LSD guru Timothy Leary as her godfather.
With that kind of company and Sex Pistols concerts seen as the perfect entertainment for a seven-year-old, Ryder was never going to be your average girl next door.
By the time she was old enough for high school, her clothes were so weird and androgynous that she was actually beaten up after being mistaken for a gay boy.
Ryder is going through a revival of attention in her career.
She recently graced the cover of US Vogue and her next movie to be released in Australia, Sex And Death 101, will be followed by Ten, in which she will star opposite Naomi Watts’ partner Liev Schreiber.
Sex And Death 101 revolves around a man whose life is turned around by an email, which includes the names of everyone he’s had sex with and ever will have sex with. His situation gets worse when he encounters a femme fatale (Ryder) who targets men guilty of sex crimes.
With the pressure of making probably way too many films while she was in her teens, and the break-up of her relationship with that other Hollywood outsider, Johnny Depp, it is unsurprising that by the age of 19 Ryder was suffering from depression and panic attacks.
“My heart would be going at 90 miles an hour, my breathing would get laboured and I’d be sweating buckets. It was like that feeling when you’re almost in a car crash, and you swerve and for a second there are needles going through your head and all through your body.”
“I was embarrassingly dramatic at the time,” she laughs, with a bit of hindsight, of the end of her relationship with Depp, one she describes as “a fiercely deep love”.
“But you have to remember I was only 19 years old.”
Apart from the bizarre cry for help or whatever the 2001 shoplifting incident was really about, at 35 Ryder seems to have turned into the sort of grown up her parents would be proud of: independent, thoughtful, creative and sensitive.
If the sensitivity is occasionally difficult for her to handle, at least it makes her the sort of actress that goes beyond the sort of hair flicking and short skirts that seem to be the only requirements for success in Hollywood today.
“I’ve learned that its OK to be flawed,” says Ryder now that her career, and her life, seem to be back on course.
“I’ve learned that life can be messy, that some days you glide and some days you fall but most important that there are no secret answers out there.”