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About Winona Ryder
American actress Winona Ryder made her film debut in the 1986 film Lucas. Her first significant role came in Tim Burton's Beetlejuice (1988) as a goth teenager, which won her critical and commercial recognition. After playing diverse roles in numerous well-received films, Ryder won a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress and an Academy Award nomination in the same category for her role in The Age of Innocence in 1993, as well as another Academy Award nomination for Little Women the following year for Best Actress. In 2000, Ryder received a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California.
She was born Winona Laura Horowitz on October 29, 1971 in Olmsted County, Minnesota, named after the nearby city of Winona. Her middle name, Laura, comes from her parents' friendship with Aldous Huxley's wife, Laura Huxley. Her mother, Cynthia Palmer (née Istas), is an author, as well as a video producer and editor. Her father, Michael Horowitz, is an author, editor, publisher and antiquarian bookseller. Ryder has described herself as Jewish. Her grandparents were immigrants from Russia and Romania; her father's family was originally named "Tomchin." Ryder's mother is a Buddhist and her father is an atheist. Ryder has one full sibling, a younger brother, Uri (named in honor of the first Soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin), an older half-brother, Jubal, and an older half-sister, Sunyata. Ryder's family friends included her godfather, LSD guru Timothy Leary, beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and science fiction novelist Philip K. Dick.
While in her early teens, Ryder was enrolled in the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. She made her film debut in the coming-of-age drama Lucas (1986). In many of her early films, she played a variety of roles. She was the eccentric, gothic Lydia in 1988's horror comedy Beetlejuice directed by Tim Burton. Ryder soon appeared as teenager who falls for the unusual title character in Edward Scissorhands (1990) with then-boyfriend Johnny Depp. In the dark comedy Heathers (1989), she played a high school girl battling for her place in the popularity food-chain.
Ryder graduated to more grown-up roles with Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992). Her work on The Age of Innocence (1993) earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Two years later, she received another nod from the academy with a Best Actress nomination for her role as Jo in Little Women (1995).
In December 1996, Ryder accepted a role as an android in Alien Resurrection (1997), alongside Sigourney Weaver, who had appeared in the entire Alien trilogy. Ryder's brother, Yuri, was a major fan of the film series, and when asked, she took the role. The film became one of the least successful entries in the Alien film series, but was considered a success as it grossed $161 million worldwide.
While she gave a strong performance in Girl, Interrupted (1999) as a young woman in a mental institution, Ryder made several forgettable films around this time, including the box office dud Autumn in New York (2000).
Ryder found herself under intense public scrutiny in December 2001 after she was charged with shoplifting more than $5,000 worth of merchandise from Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, California. Several types of prescription medication were found in her possession at the time of the arrest. Every step of Ryder's journey through the judicial process made the news. Despite pleading not guilty, she was convicted of vandalism and grand theft in November 2002. Ryder was sentenced to 480 hours of community service and three years' probation. She was also ordered to pay several fines and undergo counseling.
Since then, Ryder has kept a relatively low profile and appeared in only a handful of films. In 2006, she had a leading role in A Scanner Darkly, the animated adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novel. The futuristic story explores the impact of Substance D, a mysterious, addictive drug, on its main characters. That year, Ryder also had a lead role in the independent film The Darwin Awards, which was shown at the Sundance Film Festival.
In a recent interview, Ryder stated that she has decided to be very selective about new projects. She told Entertainment Weekly in 2006 that she'd rather not work than do a bad film. Ryder has an eclectic mix of works-in-progress, including The Ten, a satirical look at the ten commandments, and Sex and Death 101, written and directed by Daniel Waters, the screenwriter of Heathers. Waters and Ryder have also discussed creating a sequel to Heathers sometime in the future.
During her more than 20 years as a performer, Ryder has been romantically linked to several different actors and musicians, including Johnny Depp and Dave Pirner from the band Soul Asylum. She and Depp were even engaged for a time in 1990s, and he had her name tattooed on his arm.
Minnesota Birth Index, 1935-2002
- Name: Winona Horowitz
- Birth Date: 29 Oct 1971
- Birth County: Olmsted
- Father: Michael D. Horowitz
- Mother: Cynthia V. Istas
- File Number: 1971-MN-009293