Petaluma teenager stars in movie “Lucas”

Anne Dolcini

April 25, 1986

Winona Ryder’s acting career started with chewable vitamin C.

Ryder, the Petaluma High School freshman who stars in the hit movie “Lucas” said she’s always wanted to be an actress “ever since i was a little girl. I remember I could be real good. I loved to eat chewable vitamin C, but my parents would only give me so many. I could think up the greatest stories about how they were missing and why.”

“Sometimes it actually worked,” she said with a laugh. “It was sort of deceiving of me, but it was fun. I realized i could do a good job.”

Ryder’s friends and neighbors will have a chance to see what kind of job she does because “Lucas” opens today for a week’s run at the Washington Square Cinemas.

It’s scary to think that some of her friends will be seeing and judging her performance, the 14-year old said. “I’m sort of shy,” she explained,” when I went to the screening in L.A. and people would come up and compliment me I would thank them but it was such a shock, you know, that so many people had just seen me act.”

The first time she saw the film, it was hard to watch. “I was looking at my agent’s arm and he was trying to get me to look at the screen. I was just really scared to see my face that big.”

In Petaluma “people are going to see me as a totally different person,” she said. “People who don’t know me will probably think that I’m like Rina,” the character she plays.

Ryder, 14, said that although there are differences, Rina is like me in some ways. I figured out when I was thinking about her before filming that she really loves Lucas. She has for years, and it’s not just a crush. After “Lucas,” after the movie’s over, what I figured out is they would get together and they would be really happy.

While ‘Lucas’ is playing in town, I think I’m be getting a lot of attention, although I’m not sure what kind of attention,” Ryder said.

Her peers probably will be really shocked, from what I’ve heard from my friends who are actors. Corey (Haim, who plays Lucas), for instance, people just call him, ‘Oh, here comes the big movie star,’ and tease him. I hope that’s not going to happen with me. I know my real friends won’t change.”

Ryder understands about friendship, especially after making the film.

“The theme of ‘Lucas’ is to be yourself and people will still care about you, and don’t try to change for other people,” she said.

“It’s a very important message. I see a lot of people that are really caught up in the system and to get friends they try to do things that they’re really not for at all. And that’s really ridiculous.

“For instance, a girl would dress like her peers even if she didn’t want to, to have those peers be her friends. I think that’s really sad they won’t accept her for who she is.”

Ryder knows about being different. When she arrived in Petaluma last year, she found the cliques much tighter than those she had left behind in San Francisco.

“It was hard during eighth grade,” she admitted. “I was a little more outrageous-looking and got a lot of hassling. But people are beginning to realise that you can look different and still be a nice person. I have a lot of friends here now and they are all really great. Some tease me about (being in the film) but, you know, in a humorous way.”

Film is comparatively new to Ryder who has been acting for audiences since the age of eight. ‘Lucas’ is her first movie. She’s going to do another film this summer.

Her first stage role was Auntie Em in a summer school production of “The Wizard of Oz.” After that she went to the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco to learn acting, auditioning to earn a place n the prestigious school. She won scholarships at ACT for two years.

Ryder got the part in ‘Lucas’ through her Los Angeles agent, she said, making no mention of her talent.

The film was shot in Chicago last summer.

She discovered that “when you do a film, you have people waiting on you and you tend to get spoiled. Thank God I had people there to keep me down to earth – my best friend, Heather Bursch and my older brother, Jubal.

There were good times and boring times.

After the days work, Ie would go back to the hotel, order up room service, all hang out in one of our rooms and, lie, watch TV. Some of us would go over the scene we were going to do the next day and some of us would listen to music.”

Other times weren’t so great. “One day, they called me and Charlie Sheen at seven in the morning and they got us there and out us in wardrobe and makeup right away. It was disgustingly hot. They kept saying, ‘We’re going to get to your guys’ shot, we’re going to get to our guys’ shot.’ At seven at night, they said, ‘We’re not going to get to it.’ We spent all day sitting on the set for nothing. But the majority of it is fun.”

When Ryder gets scripts through her agent, she asks advice of her best friend and of her parents, Mike and Cindy Horowitz of Petaluma.

At school, Winona uses her parents’ last name, not her stage name, which was chosen on the advice of her father.

Her favourite subject is English. “I love to read, to expand my mind.” Building on that interest, she also writes in her free time. The daughter of two writers, she is working on two scripts, both mysteries.

On the down side, “I hate P.E. and I’m horrible at maths.”

Attending school and living in Petaluma helps Ryder keep a good mental balance, she said.

“I get treated so different here than in L.A. When I go down there, I get a lot of attention, go to studios and audition for movies. Everyone compliments me and everyone’s so professional. I come back here and it’s just – Petaluma. It’s nice that I live somewhere where I don’t get my head high. I don’t want to get conceited.”

She pauses a moment. “The worst thing about being an actress is people judge you before they get to know you. People call me conceited and they’ve never even met me.”

Ryder is one of four children. Her younger brother, Uri, 10, and her sister, Sunyata, 18, saw the film as did Jubal, 17. “They’re really happy for me but it’s sort of hard (for them) to comprehend,” Ryder said. “They were a little shocked when they saw ‘Lucas’ because they saw their sister being someone else.”

Ryder said she would like to spend her life in ‘the business,’ acting and directing.

If not, she also has her eye on a career as a human rights lawyer.

She intends to go to college to study literature and law. She may be able to help pay for her education with her earnings, which are being kept in trust for her.

However, being in a film doesn’t mean instant riches, she said. “Everyone thinks that because I’m an actress I’m a millionaire and live in a mansion. Not yet.”

One of Winona’s friends, Helene Longenbaugh, says she’s sure the young actress is “going to be big in Petaluma when the movie comes out here. The other day at the book store, World of Words, I heard two people talking and looking at us and one said, ‘Isn’t that the girl from ‘Lucas’?”

FILM REVIEW “Lucas” sensitive look at teen love

By Lee Siegel

The joys and agonies of teenage puppy love are explored with sensitivity, humor and intelligence in ‘Lucas’, a 20th Century-Fox film that displays a refreshing willingness to avoid easy answers to the travails of growing up.

The title character, played by Corey Haim, is a short, smart, articulate and bespectacled 14-year-old wimp who catches insects and falls for redheaded 16-year-old Maggie (Kerri Green) during summer vacation.

They’ll both be in the same high school class because Lucas is ‘accelerated’ because of he’s very bright.

A relationship blossoms. But when school starts, Lucas learns painfully that what he views as love, Maggie sees only as a close friendship.

Maggie becomes attracted to a truly likeable football star, Cappie (Charlie Sheen), and both defend Lucas against cruel jokes and physical abuse from other, brutish football players who refer to Lucas as ‘leukoplakia,’ a sometimes cancerous mouth disease.

But Cappie is still dating cheerleader Alise (Courtney Thorne-Smith). Meanwhile, Lucas barely notices the adoring stares of Rina (Winona Ryder) a pixie-like, brunette wimpette.

The pain of the unrequited crush is captured beautifully during a choir practice scene. Rina casts her longing gaze at Lucas, whose eyes are focused on Maggie. But Maggie – and Alise – are watching Cappie.

Despite his usual common sense, Lucas’ anger gets the better of him as he realizes that Maggie wants him only as a friend. He yells at her and tells her to leave hi alone.

When Maggie tries to explain that you like some people as wonderful friends and others as romantic interests, Lucas demands to know why. Maggie can’t explain. So Lucas tries to answer his own question, telling Maggie that Darwinian natural selection makes females pick the big, strong males to assure survival of the species.

As Cappie dumps Alise and develops a relationship with Maggie ‘who joins the cheerleader squad despite Lucas’ insistence that such activity is superficial – Lucas asserts his late-blooming manliness by worming his way onto the field during a crucial football game.

A less realistic film might have made Lucas the conquering hero. But this movie remains true to reality, with Lucas gaining respect and friendship, but not Maggie’s love.

Writer-director David Seltzer deftly manages his cast, portraying the teen-ages as warm, vulnerable and thoroughly engaging. Even the brutish jocks who torment Lucas show flickering signs of underlying humanity.

As a result, ‘Lucas’ paints a sensitive portrait of youth as human beings, not the sex-and drug-crazed, one-dimensional stereotypes seen in far too many films dealing with teen-agers.

Rated PG-13 for some harsh language.

Script developed by Never Enough Design