Whatever happened to Winona Ryder?

ARMY OF ME - The Philippine Star

Winona Ryder’s enduring beauty is uncanny. Gazing at her face on the cover of this month’s Interview magazine, shot by Craig McDean, I couldn’t believe that it’s been almost two decades since she became the de facto poster girl of a generation.

The flurry of publicity is for her latest film, The Iceman, a thriller about Richard Kuklinski, who killed at least 100 men during the ‘70s and ‘80s. Of her role, as the wife who to this day swears she never knew he was a hitman for the DeCavalcante and Gambino families, Ryder says: “This was something that I’d never done before — this genre, true crime — and my biggest fear was that there would be something romantic about it.” She has always been attracted to dark characters but this, from what I’ve read, should be something else.

Renewed activity

It would be easy, though terribly inaccurate, to conclude that everything has been completely quiet for the actress, now 41. Her turn as has-been ballerina Beth MacIntyre in 2010’s Black Swan left fans hoping for renewed activity. While her performance in J.J. Abrams’s 2009 Star Trek reboot was noteworthy — she was Spock’s human mother Amanda Grayson — it was a mere blip. So, too, were her recent projects with director Tim Burton: Here with Me, a music video by The Killers in which she played the love interest; and a voice role in the animated 3D feature Frankenweenie. After The Iceman, there’s the action-packed Homefront alongside James Franco, set for release in 2014.

Winona Ryder will always be Veronica Sawyer to me, so when I found out that cable network Bravo was updating Heathers, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The 1988 cult classic featured Ryder, then 17, as a sardonic, homicidal member of a popular clique. As the Mean Girls of its time, not only did it have its share of memorable lines (“Lick it up, baby. Lick it up,” among others); it made Christian Slater and a pre-90210 Shannen Doherty the toast of the teen scene.

The 2010s version picks up 20 years after the end of the original, with Veronica returning home to Sherwood, Ohio, with her teenage daughter, who must deal with the Ashleys. They’re the daughters of the surviving Heathers — McNamara and Duke — featured in the film. Hey, if The Carrie Diaries can do it, why not this one?

Alienated outsider roles

According to the late movie critic Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, “Winona Ryder, in another of her alienated outsider roles, generates real charisma.” He was referring to the 1990 comedy-drama Mermaids, which co-starred Cher and Christina Ricci.

Of course, there are more bullet points in the Academy Award nominee’s filmography: She was Lydia Deetz in Beetlejuice, Kim Boggs in Edward Scissorhands and Mina Murray in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. She was also May Welland in The Age Of Innocence, Lelaina Price in Reality Bites and Jo March in Little Women. Her evolution from ingénue to icon has been so remarkable that even Anna Wintour took notice. “I’ve always been a fan of Ryder’s,” the Vogue editor said in August 2007, “as much for her originality of style as for her acting.”   

Given her eclectic résumé, however, Ryder also made a few films with mixed fortunes. Though it was a major financial success, for instance, 2002’s Mr. Deeds was critically panned and earned Ryder a Razzie nomination for Worst Actress. On the other hand, the visually hypnotic A Scanner Darkly, an animated film based on a sci-fi novel by Philip K. Dick, a family friend, fell $1 million short of earning back its $8.7-million production budget in 2006.

 â€œI’m very happy in my life. I’m grateful for the work, but I wouldn’t want to be working the way I was working. It becomes all about you. Slowing down has been really nice,” she told The Examiner last month, alluding to the hiatus following her shoplifting arrest in 2001.

She’s so good at what she does and I hope that she’s truly back in the game.  

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