Winona Ryder talks chilling new role in “The Iceman”

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2013

“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 to discuss her character, who claimed to have absolutely no knowledge of her husband’s nefarious deeds:

CBSNEWS.COM: Do you think money might have blinded your character from seeing what was really going on?

WINONA RYDER: Definitely. I think that there was a definite level of greed that sort of fed into her denial. Or you know not wanting to ask questions or acknowledge what was really happening. Because I do believe she must have known something was up. It’s just impossible to stay in a relationship that long and not know anything. I believe she was someone who really liked her life and liked her things and liked her clothes and liked how she was living. They were flourishing. They were making a lot of money. So for her to walk away from that would have meant taking responsibility but also it would have meant a much harder life. Which I don’t think she would have wanted that.

CBSNEWS.COM: And in preparation for this, you really wanted to stay in the dark like she did?

RYDER: Not so much in the dark. There wasn’t a lot of research available about her. There was stuff that was sort of splintered into his interviews but it was from his perspective. It was very, very tiny snippets of her. But I did find I sort of mirrored her denial in not watching the interviews or talking about the gruesome crimes. Having to block my ears when they were talking about it on set. I usually am the opposite. I usually research things to the point that’s annoying for some people. With this, I just found out that I would black out everything in my script that she was like in denial of. I felt that I would have played it completely differently if I was sort of saturating myself with his other life. It would’ve been too horrifying. I would’ve played it differently. So that was my approach which was sort of difficult for me.

CBSNEWS.COM: And turning to your co-star Michael Shannon — you were a big fan of his before making this?

RYDER: Yeah, I’ve been a fan of his for a while. He’s just one of those actors that’s been consistently really really good. And someone that we all sort of as actors really wanted to come out and support. It was a really really great experience. He was wonderful. He gives a stellar performance. He definitely brings a sort of humanity that personally I don’t even know if this guy deserved. But leave it to Michael to find the complexity and depth to a character like him.

“The Iceman” opens in theaters on Friday.