LOST SOULS: WINONA RYDER INTERVIEW
By Prairie Miller
You never know what to expect from Winona Ryder. The actress who practically grew up on screen has been everything from funny and scary, to romantic in movies. Having just recently played a character who falls in love with Richard Gere in Autumn In New York, Ryder is now mixing it up with the devil in order to rid the world of evil in Janusz Kaminski’s Lost Souls. Sitting down with Ryder, I decided to play devil’s advocate and probe along with her the kinds of demons she’d like to exorcise from Hollywood.
PM: Which question are you sick of being asked, so we can avoid that one?
WINONA RYDER: Hmm…No, just shoot. I’m fine.
PM: Are you a horror movie fan?
WR: Well, actually to me this is more supernatural than a horror movie. I don’t like the, you know, slash ’em up movies very much. I love psychological thrillers. Like I think the ultimate is Don’t Look Now. Anything dealing with clairvoyance, things like that. And The Dead Zone was a great movie. I would call Lost Souls more of a supernatural thriller. Because there’s not a lot of gore. I’m not a big fan of gore. There are exceptions, I guess.
PM: What’s the fascination for you with the occult?
WR: I think we collectively have a fear of the unknown and the invisible. And I always find it much more terrifying when you don’t see the gore, and you don’t see even the bad guy, if it’s the devil or if it’s an alien. The first Alien movie is a great example. Because you only see the alien like maybe three times. But yet through the entire movie, you feel it’s presence. So I always think that movies are a lot scarier when you don’t see what’s there.
PM: Your career is filled with so many types of movies, from Alien: Resurrection to Celebrity, Beetlejuice and Heathers. Why are you always interested in doing very different projects?
WR: I’ve always fantasized about being older, and looking back on my career. And having , you know, all different types of movies. And with Lost Souls, I really did want to explore this genre of film.
PM: How did you prepare for your role in Lost Souls as a kind of demonologist?
WR: It was a great opportunity for me to explore that as an actress, and as a person to step into this role. I learned a lot of stuff. I read the bible, and I got to talk to this very prominent priest who had performed so-called exorcisms. And I watched videotapes of them.
PM: What was that experience like?
WR: It was very disturbing. I don’t believe in the devil at all. But I believe that these people had severe mental disorders, and maybe some schizophrenia.
PM: Was anything paranormal going on?
WR: Yeah, there are things. That’s why it’s so amazing to me what the human body is capable of doing, when you’ve lost your mind that much. I mean, contorting into insane positions and breaking your own bones, things like that. The interesting thing I found was that in all the tapes we watched, it was always a teenage girl. And it was clear to me that they were just very disturbed. I don’t know, I wasn’t raised to believe there was a devil or there was hell. I actually think that’s a very sort of abusive thing to inflict on a kid, to make them think that they’re going to go to hell and burn, if they do something wrong. That’s not how I would raise my kid.
PM: What did you draw on as an actress, to play this part?
WR: Gosh, you know I’m not sure. Because in my mind, it was so absurd, in a way. But I was so aware that we were making this movie, and that it’s a genre movie. And that what I was thinking was absurd, is actually a lot of people’s reality, you know? But Janusz really created an incredible working environment on the set. I’d known him for years, and he was just so amazing. He really brought an amazing energy to the set. And when I was confused, or when things didn’t make any sense to me, I knew that it would look great, and that he could make sense of it, as a conductor. He’s great.
PM: Are you happy with the ending of the movie, that it isn’t one of those Hollywood endings?
WR: Oh yeah. Bow tie endings drive me crazy. And there are so many of them.
PM: Bow tie endings?
WR: Yeah. You know, where everything is tied up perfectly. It’s getting harder and harder now, because studios really want bow tie endings. And you really have to fight. I love ambiguous endings. But I think it’s very important that my character is just such a person of conviction. I think it’s great that you don’t really know if she did the right thing, but she’s just has so much conviction. Yeah, it was very important, I think.
PM: Are you working on anything else right now?
WR: No. I’m now of the mindset that I just want to do maybe one movie a year, if that. You know, there’s so much out there, and you keep seeing the same faces saying the same things over and over. I just am so sick of it that, it makes me not want to go see movies when you know everything. How much they cost, how much people are paid, what the story is, the cast, everything. There’s no mystery anymore. So I don’t concern myself with any of it. I mean, I work with people who take care of that end of it. But if I did that, I would be a really, really messed up person. I mean, I would be I think incredibly worried all the time, and neurotic. Like I think it’s very unhealthy for an actor to read the trades. The day I do that is the day I quit acting.
PM: What do you think has gone wrong in Hollywood?
WR: Like I started acting fifteen years ago. And at that time, years ago, it was only about the work. Nobody in the acting community knew about anything else. The only thing that mattered is if the person was good. And directors would hire you because you were good. It didn’t have anything to do with how much your last movie made. Now the climate has really changed out there, and it’s kind of frightening that you just see the same faces promoting their films and saying the same things.
It just doesn’t seem real, it doesn’t seem honest. And for me, I just feel like when I look back on my career, I want to look back on performances and work, not, oh that movie made this amount of money. Or that movie tanked, or whatever. It’s really the work that matters. It interesting, because for a little while, I did sort of follow the business end of it, and I drove myself nuts. Like I was not in good shape, because I was thinking about that stuff. That’s why you hire people, to shield you from that. Because all you should be thinking about is your own work, and your own performance.
PM: Is it possible to just stay focused on your craft, and forget about everything else?
WR: I’m not saying I don’t care if my movies don’t make money. You know, if my movies make money, that gives me an opportunity to make movies like Girl, Interrupted. And things that I’ve been developing for years. So I guess it is important. But just as an actress, I can’t think about that kind of stuff. And I can’t believe that scenes can be edited and movie endings can be changed because, you know, Susie from the mall didn’t get it. Or didn’t like the ending.
When I started out, it wasn’t like that. There weren’t really focus groups. Like it was kind of rare. And I remember when they started happening like with every movie. It was just terrifying for the director, because he would have to alter his movie because this group of people in Costa Mesa, or wherever wanted a happier ending. And a lot of people say that’s why The Crucible didn’t do well, was because it had this really depressing ending. Like, it’s The Crucible! The ending is so powerful. I mean, I really love that movie, I think it’s incredibly powerful. But it’s just so heartbreaking to know about this whole thing of final cut, and that directors don’t get final cut anymore. And most of them don’t. So it’s very sad.
PM: Have you been in movies where they’ve shot alternate endings?
WR: Yeah, I have. But most of the time, what we do is we just show them how bad it can be, probably! Like you’re not going to look back on your life and reminisce about your picture in People Magazine. You’re going to hopefully look back and just think about your performances in your films. When you’re promoting a movie, you have to do stuff like this and talk about it. That’s something you do to support your film, to support your work. That’s important, and it does make a difference. But I just think it’s the work that matters.
PM: Are you comfortable looking at yourself in movies?
WR: Yeah. I think I can probably, because I’ve been doing it for so long, since I was a kid. So I sort of watched myself grow up and go through adolescence like basically on camera. So I can. I’ve seen the worst of it! And also, I’m such a film fanatic. I love movies so much. And there are a couple of movies I’ve made, that I don’t even realize I’m in them. And I think they’re so good. Like Age Of Innocence. And The Crucible, and Heathers. These movies I think are so amazing that I don’t mind watching myself at all.