Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Winona Ryder won audience’s hearts for being quirky and dark, with films like 1988’s ‘Beetlejuice’ and 1990’s ‘Edward Scissorhands’ (both helmed by Tim Burton) and, my personal favorite, 1989’s ‘Heathers.’ She made her mark as the first “manic pixie dream girl” — sure, she’s slightly different, but you can’t help but fall in love with her.
Ryder’s expressive, big eyes and penchant for sad, relatable characters made her super lovable. As the young emo-goth Lydia Deetz in ‘Beetlejuice,’ one of her first roles, she gained stand-out praise alongside established actors Michael Keaton and Alec Baldwin.
Her follow-up, as Veronica Sawyer, in the super-dark high school satire ‘Heathers,’ solidified her place as a movie star.
In 1994, Ryder won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and an Academy Award nomination for her role in ‘The Age of Innocence.’ She was nominated again for the Best Actress Oscar in 1995 for ‘Little Women.’ Then she showed real chops in 1999’s ‘Girl, Interrupted,’ holding her own against Angelina Jolie’s tour-de-force performance and really making an impact on audiences. In 2000, Ryder was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
But Ryder fell out of public favor fast after an infamous shoplifting incident in 2001. Ryder was accused of stealing $5,500 in designer clothing and merchandise from a Saks Fifth Avenue department store. The crime was caught on a security camera, and it seemed obvious that Ryder was guilty.
At the trial, it was said that Ryder showed up at the store prepared to shoplift. She told multiple different stories about why — she was preparing for a role, she thought Saks would charge her later. Prosecutors said she was doing it for “sheer thrill.” Not very endearing.
Ryder was sentenced to three years probation, which she served until 2005. But worse than the actual charges was the media circus surrounding her trial. Ryder was torn apart in the press for being another spoiled Hollywood loony. Her promising career took a backseat as every headline mentioned her “sticky-fingered” tendencies.
Needless to say, Ryder suffered a major career setback and took a four-year hiatus from serious acting.
She then appeared as a woman who has sex with a ventriloquist’s dummy in one of the shorts in the 2007 comedy ensemble film ‘The Ten’ (the movie went mostly unnoticed). Then, in 2009, she made a small but more buzzed-about big-screen comeback as Spock’s mother in the reboot of ‘Star Trek.’
This year, however, may be the year that Ryder has a true comeback.
Now 39, Ryder was nominated for two 2010 SAG Awards for lead actress in ‘When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story’ and for her part in the cast of ‘Black Swan.’ And the Ron Howard comedy, ‘The Dilemma,’ starring Ryder, Vince Vaughn, Kevin James and Jennifer Connelly, premieres this month, on January 14.
‘Black Swan,’ a Darren Aronofsky film about a stressed-out ballerina who might actually be turning into a swan in preparation for her lead role in ‘Swan Lake,’ sees Ryder playing two old favorites: crazy and dramatic. Her character, Beth, a former ballerina replaced by Natalie Portman’s character because she’s gotten too old for the part, gives Ryder the chance to act her at her best. Though the role is small, her intensity permeated every scene.
In the CBS TV movie ‘When Love Is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story,’ Ryder took on the role of the wife of Bill Wilson, one of the co-founder’s of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Her upcoming part as Kevin James’ cheating wife in ‘The Dilemma’ is a departure for her — comedy isn’t a usual form for Ryder. Her last attempt at the rom-com genre was the ill-received Adam Sandler flick ‘Mr. Deeds,’ which was bad through no fault of Ryder’s.
But Ryder seems to be slowly winning back public favor and if ‘The Dilemma’ makes good on its stellar cast (Vaughn, Connelly) and legendary director (Howard), it could be another step for Ryder toward a total recovery.
Her next movie, ‘Frankenweenie 3D,’ is supposed to come out in 2012. Since the film is animated, Ryder’s role is solely as voice talent, but it once again pairs her with director Burton, with whom she did her best work in the ’80s and ’90s.
The reason Ryder’s shoplifting hiccup was such a media curiousity was in part because she was so beloved. Audiences want to like her. Though I’m not a huge fan, I’ve never been disappointed to see her name attached to a film.
Will Ryder’s work in 2010 win our love in 2011 and beyond? Or will one mistake prove to have cost her her prior acclaim for good? We hope it’s the former. How very!