Winona Ryder: Ryder on the Storm

Ah, youth. Only one year ago Winona Ryder was spoofing the very idea of movie stars. Since then, she's snagged Johnny Depp, jilted Francis Coppola, and stolen a movie from Cher. And she's barely old enough to vote.


Winona Ryder won't wait. That's what her representative says when she calls to move our meeting up by an hour and a half. The young actress and her fiance Johnny Depp are in town for only a couple of weeks, to complete Edward Scissorhands, and scheduling is becoming tighter by the second. "Rather than having dinner at La Cucina on Melrose," her rep tells me, "Winona now wants to meet you for tea this afternoon, at the Four Seasons Hotel on Doheny Drive." I request a 15-minute grace period, but there's no way. I'm told it would be impossible for Winona to wait around the hotel lobby. Particularly by herself.

I acquiesce, hop in the car, and hustle over to Beverly Hills. A half hour after the re-scheduled time of our meeting, Ryder's nowhere in sight. As the minutes tick by, I decide to cool my heels outside.

I find myself thinking about what a difference 12 short months can make in the life and times of a young Tinseltown player. Just a year ago, Winona was playfully parodying the hot young star bit, sending out messages that she didn't take any of this Hollywood stuff too seriously. It was already evident then, after her scene-stealing performances in the delightful Beetlejuice and the dreadful Great Balls of Fire, and her inspired, droll, star-making turn in the dark satire Heathers, that she was virtually in a class by herself among young female performers. No one else has anything quite like her combination of winsome longing, brainy charm, and crackerjack comic timing. Even in her quirky early roles in Lucas and Square Dance, it was apparent that she had something. She lent her characters the rambunctious, oddball quality that marks girls who are destined to turn into something slightly more interesting than the Homecoming Queen. But back then in her tomboyish pre-teens, it wasn't obvious that she'd bloom into so confident a performer, and a real beauty to boot. As she became the industry's teen darling, the press couldn't get enough of her, and everywhere one looked, there she was: taking one reporter on a tour of L.A.'s haunted houses, doing an Interview interview with her godfather Timothy Leary, becoming engaged to marry TV's bad boy Depp.

Now 19, Winona Ryder's almost taken the town--but the campaign has been far from smooth. The ascent to star parts in the upcoming Mermaids, Edward Scissorhands, and Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael has been clouded by her sudden exit from the Italian set of The Godfather, Part III. The key role of Al Pacino and Diane Keaton's daughter in Francis Ford Coppola's hotly anticipated sequel seemed certain to mark Ryder's arrival as an adult star. But claiming exhaustion, she walked away from it all, and ever since that particular career move, she's been at the epicenter of a storm of talk--some of it behind closed doors, some of it openly in the press--much of it very different in tone from the enthusiasm that greeted her everywhere she went, just one short year ago.

So, I'm thinking these somber thoughts about the fleeting nature of youth and fame when, finally, a stretch limousine pulls into the hotel's circular drive. All sealed up in smoked glass, it comes to a stop. The back door opens. And out tumbles a tiny China doll of a girl. Make that an unbreakable China doll. As Winona Ryder comes toward me, she looks absolutely sure of herself. And beautiful as she is in person, her exterior lacks even a trace of Movie Star--which is saying a lot in this neighborhood. Wearing pegged black jeans, a navy blue windbreaker, and a chambray shirt, she could be a rich-kid freshman from nearby UCLA. And when she matter-of-factly approaches me, extends her hand, smiles, and says, "Hi. I'm Winona," I no longer care how long I've been kept waiting.

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