USA Today, May 1 1992
By Stephen Schaefer
Special for USA Today
NEW YORK â€“ Director Jim Jarmusch and actress Winona Ryder first met over lunch at her invitation. â€œI didnâ€™t think heâ€™d want to meet me,â€ she admits. â€œI felt like one of the Charlieâ€™s Angels.â€
Now, in a suite overlooking Central Park, the Hollywood whiz kid and the New York hipster are plopped on a couch talking about their collaboration on Night on Earth, opening in New York today, and later rolling out nationwide.
Ryder, the luminous child-woman of mainstream flicks like Mermaids, Edward Scissorhands and Heathers, starring in a Jarmusch film?
At 39, the prematurely silver-haired lion of U.S avant-garde film is an idol in Paris, Tokyo and Helsinki. But Hollywood he is not. His strange and funny films â€“ Stranger Than Paradise, Down by Law, Mystery Train â€“ have little in the way of plot and lots of attitude.
â€œMy movies are usually concerned with things we would consider insignificant,â€ says the writer / director. â€œWhen we take a taxi, we think of the ride as from point A to B, the ride itself is insignificant. So essentially I wanted to make an entire film of what in a normal film would be edited out.â€
Night follows five taxi encounters in five cities. Ryder plays a chain-smoking L.A. cabbie. The actress, 21, says that when working with Jarmusch, she â€œdidnâ€™t have the pressure of being, quote, directed. He was so accessible, so â€“ whatâ€™s the word?â€
â€œCollaborative,â€ he suggests.
As both sip tea and smoke (â€œI had quit before we started shooting,â€ she says, while Jarmusch jokes, â€œLook what Iâ€™ve done to this poor girl!â€), they disparage the image making machinery that typecasts each of them.
â€œThey used to write that I dyed my hair white and wore black clothes and made black-and-white films because that was the image I was projecting,â€ moans Jarmusch. â€œMy hair is white genetically. Iâ€™ve worn black clothes since I was 15 and wanted to look like Zorro or Johnny Cash. I made black-and-white films because I truly like black-and-white and didnâ€™t understand why it was suddenly not viable anymore.â€
Itâ€™s always â€œ â€˜quirky Winona Ryderâ€™ or â€˜offbeat,â€™ chimes in Ryder, who thinks no one should be labelled. â€œIâ€™m not incredibly insulted by that â€“ I like â€˜offbeatâ€™ rather than any other words. I just do films that move me and thatâ€™s the only reason Iâ€™m in this business.â€
Ryder, working almost non-stop, just completed Bram Stokerâ€™s Dracula, her first reunion with Francis Ford Coppola since leaving his The Godfather, Part III, in which she was replaced by the directorâ€™s daughter Sofia Coppola. Sheâ€™s now filming The Age of Innocence for Martin Scorsese.
â€œThere was none of the bitterness between Francis and I that people created in the press,â€ she says. Coppola â€œunderstood my position when I left the film.â€
Magazine reports of a nervous breakdown? â€œAll untrue, I left because I was very physically ill and was tired and couldnâ€™t do the movie. A doctor in Romeâ€¦ sent me home.
â€œI couldnâ€™t do this, and Francis completely understood and there was no hostility. Maybe there was from the studio or other people but never from him.â€ Dracula isnâ€™t a payback, she says. â€œIt just happened. I loved the script.
â€œWhen you are successful,â€ she says, â€œpeople do tend to make assumptions about you in your personal life that are really false. Thatâ€™s frustrating but I feel really lucky to meet and work with incredible people I watched growing up and falling in love with at the movies.
â€œAnd,â€ she says, heading off a question about Johnny Depp, whom she has not yet wed but not been seen with much lately, â€œIâ€™m keeping my personal life very personal.â€
Source: Nigel Goodallâ€™s research archive. Used with permission.