Winona Ryder is still pale, diminutive and breathtakingly pretty. She still peppers her speech with the vocalized pauses of her teen years — “you know.”
But the star of Heathers, Mermaids and Edward Scissorhands is 41. Yes, you’re allowed to feel “old” now — but just for a moment.
Because Ryder, years removed from her Oscar-nominated/Golden Globe winning heyday in films such as The Age of Innocence and Little Women, almost a decade removed from the career-crippling bad press of a shoplifting conviction, is on the brink of being a hot property all over again. Not that she’s been looking for this.
“As you get older, and you get to a certain place in your life, you get more selective,” she says. “But I am starting to appreciate being the age that I am and finding roles that I couldn’t play before, because I was just too young. Even if I was the right age, I didn’t look the right age.”
She’s still “fragile” and “vulnerable, not just as an actress, but as a person,” director Ariel Vroman says. He cast her as the female lead in his acclaimed new true story hit-man thriller, The Iceman, opening Friday, pairing the dainty Ryder up with the formidable Michael Shannon, who plays murderer-for-hire Richie Kuklinski.
Critics are agreeing, with London’s Independent newspaper calling her turn as the unknowing mob wife “touching and credible” and The Hollywood Reporter enthusing that “she brings a lovely ethereal quality to Deborah, as well as a certain willful blindness.”
That was Ryder’s chief task in this film, to be a 1960s woman courted by a man who keeps his work life secret.
“I did the opposite of research for this part,” Ryder says. “I went into denial, like Deborah. I didn’t want to know about the real crimes. I wanted to do what she was doing, block it out.”
She worked with the costume designer to construct this woman, “who liked having money, liked her life. We started with the shoes, because a woman who wears heels is different from a woman who wears sandals.” Deborah shows up well put together in scene after scene — a Valentino suit here, another perfect ensemble there — “because whatever she didn’t want to know about his work, she didn’t want to be broke. These people had money, thanks to all this killing her husband was doing.”
With the James Franco/Jason Statham film Homefront in the can and other projects in the works, Ryder faces her latest busy stretch with the perspective of someone who didn’t work much at all for a few years. And that taught her “balance.”
“When you make movies, back to back to back, life becomes all about you. You have people who are important in your life who need you, and you’re like, ‘Let me finish this movie and I’ll be there for you.’ It’s equally as important for me to be happy in my life, to be as present as I can and appreciate each day and be a good person, friend, sibling, all of that stuff.”
McClatchy-Tribune News Service