Autumn in New York : Interview With Winona Ryder

Catherine Zeta Jones didn't wince a second at her on-screen coupling with Entrapment (1999) co-star Sean Connery - 40 years her senior - and likewise Gwyneth Paltrow registered little complaint about her romantic pairing with Perfect Murder, A (1998) co-star Michael Douglas, 30 years her senior.

Winona Ryder feels differently about the prickly age-gap issue.

Her May-December screen romance with Richard Gere in Autumn In New York (2000) has come in for some withering criticism - not least for the improbable gap of 23 years between her and Gere.

And while her predecessors insisted age wasn't an issue, Winona is the last person to defend her latest film: "I was just an actor for hire on Autumn in New York (2000)," she protests. "I wasn't part of the artistic collaboration because I was hired last. The role had been tailored with someone else in mind. I'd just come off Girl, Interrupted (1999), which was a labour of love for me, so it was a difficult adjustment. "

"The old guy-young girl thing is what the whole movie is about. It's referred to constantly and even joked about," says the actress who certainly isn't looking for a man almost twice her age in real life. "I'm not into wrinkles," she notes wryly.

When reminded that Gere was voted People magazine's sexiest man alive two years earlier, she quips: "I didn't vote in that poll. Richard is not the sexiest man alive in my books. Bruce Springsteen is 50 and sexy," says Winona whose own colourful dating history bears out the fact that this is one actress not interested in dating a man old enough to be her father.

Indeed, one unkind US publication dubbed her Easy Ryder, but that would be too simple a title to foist upon this complicated young actress. As famous for her films as she is for her numerous lovers, the eternally winsome Winona Ryder will turn 30 in October this year - forcing her to face the inevitable passage of time. "I welcome turning 30 because I like approaching the beginning of something instead of the end. I'm at a really good place and feel grounded.

That John Lennon quote, "'Life is what happens while you're making other plans,' that's been on my refrigerator for years. It's important for my life," she says.

In facing her 30s, she believes she has a new understanding of the pressures of her career and the expectations of the media: "I've learned that it's OK to be flawed, that life can be messy, that some days you glide and some days you fall, but most important, that there are no secret answers out there. When you finally accept that it's OK not to have answers and it's OK not to be perfect, you realize that feeling confused is a normal part of what it is to be a human being," says the actress whose list of ex-boyfriends reads more like an Oscar nomination list - Johnny Depp, Christian Slater, Daniel Day Lewis, Matt Damon, David Duchovny. .. . Not to mention Sex and The City's Chris Noth and rockers Eric Clapton, Jakob Dylan, David Pirner (Soul Asylum) and Beck.

Indeed one influential web-site, Mr Showbiz, lists Winona's family details as "Relations: Godfather: Timothy Leary (deceased); reported companion: Beck (musician); ex-companions: too numerous to mention."

The actress merely smiles politely at the anecdote: "Well, I shouldn't complain!" "I had my first real relationship with Johnny (Depp), a fiercely deep love that I don't know that I'll ever. .. .The first love is like that isn't it? I don't know today. It was a real wild time back then."

"It's really good to be able to think about past loves without having a pit in my stomach, or cringing or feeling heart-broken, or like they hate you. Don't you think? Because for the few years after you break up you go through all of those feelings. I was very depressed after breaking off my engagement with Johnny ten years ago. I was embarrassingly dramatic at the time, but you have to remember I was only 19 years old."

"A doctor diagnosed me with anticipatory nostalgia - whatever that is - and gave me sleeping pills. I attempted being an alcoholic for two weeks; spending a lot of time in my hotel room; drinking screwdrivers from the mini-bar; smoking cigarettes and listening to Tom Waits."

"One night I fell asleep with a lit cigarette, and woke up to the flames. I haven't visited that dark side since. That was what you might say my 'wake-up call'."

"Break-ups are hard for anybody, but it's particularly tough when it's being documented and you see the person's picture everywhere. Most people don't have that added problem when they break up with someone. When you're romantically involved with an actor, it's hard not to get the feeling that they're just reading lines, even in your most intimate, private moments."

"Sadly it's true. When you've been an actor your whole life, your emotion and the acting get confused. When you fight with your boyfriend, you start acting - it's like work. I've worked with every young actor. Usually they have a problem, or they're fucked up, or they're recovering," says the actress who recently parted company with rocker boyfriend, Beck after six months.

If there's one thing Winona has learned from her years of dating equally famous co-stars, then she volunteers: "You learn pretty quickly after your first bout as a public couple. You learn to always leave separately, to go places separately, to live like a spy, to make plans like 'Meet you at 2pm by the rest room of the cineplex. ' And you also learn to never talk about it. "

She is equally experienced - and acutely critical - at viewing her own work: "I'm quite comfortable looking at myself in movies, 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. 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, the (1993). And Crucible, the (1996) and Heathers (1989)."

"These movies, I think, are so amazing that I don't mind watching myself at all," says the actress who we have watched mature on screen over the past 15 years and some 29 movies. "Yeah, I feel like I've done a lot of movies," she laughs, adding, "Maybe not a lot of people have seen them. I'm lucky in the sense that I can play really young and older. I do look back on some of my films and, not to sound conceited, but I think I've made the transition from ingénue to adult pretty easily."

That's the directors giving me the opportunities. Like Martin Scorsese giving me that role in Age of Innocence, the (1993), which in my mind was kind of a crossover role. In Little Women (1994), even though that's geared to younger women, my character spans the ages from 16 to 26," says Winona who ponders her fortuitousness when so many young actors fail to make that transition.

"I'm always thinking about that because I'm worried about friends of mine who are in the business and young. I worked with Christina Ricci; her first movie was Mermaids (1990). Kirsten Dunst is doing great. But I worry about the roles. You can't go from being, like, a college freshman to being a lawyer. There's this couple of years where you have to kind of get by, and it's hard. It was hard for me. .. . That's why there are so many movies where there's a rookie cop. I've always vowed I'd never play a rookie cop. It's always like that, but I have such total faith in people like Christina and Kirsten. They are so grown up. It's wonderful."

Despite the jibes about her ever-colourful romantic status, Winona is not one of those fragile wounded creatures who considers herself a victim of bad press: "I don't participate in the gossip. I have a great thing going - I love my job and making movies. I'm still excited when I go to movies and I have a great life outside the movie industry. A great group of friends and my family, and none of them feed into that. A lot of people don't have that, and that's probably why they get hurt. It's just a theory, but I started when I was so young, I grew up doing this."

"My career was gradual. I didn't do a Pretty Woman (1990) movie where suddenly I was a huge star. I started so young that I never had time to be ambitious because I was already working. I never had that, 'I'm going to be in the movies', because I already was. It's strange the way people throw themselves into stardom - and that world is not reality. What will you draw on for your performances if you just live in this bubble of Hollywood? . .. People who are obsessed with making it and salaries and box office, they have nothing to draw on when they do their work. It's very apparent on-screen. I'm talking about men and women, although it's even sadder when you see a guy do it. The vanity there is something very strange," she reflects.

With no current boyfriend in sight - her brief romance with rock star Beck ended a few months ago - Winona still insists she's the marrying kind: "I plan on it. I'm very much traditional that way. I'd like to think it's just going to happen once. I'm a hopeless romantic. I was literally born wanting to get married. And I'm keen to have children. When I do it, I'd like to take a lot of time off. All I will say is that I love being with children. It's so exciting when your friends start having babies. I love being around them," she concedes. "I used to be sad a lot of the time, but I'm getting to be happier as I grow older and wiser."

"A lot of great actors, some of my favourites, say, 'My work is my life,' And for a long time I felt if I didn't think that, then I wasn't a serious actress - if I didn't suffer, then I wasn't good. It's this idea that's really carved into young actors' minds: 'Use it. Be depressed, suffer, call upon horrible experiences,' that only a licensed therapist, no acting coach, should be able to bring out. But in the last four years, I've come to the realisation I can be just as good an actress - in fact, I think a better actress - while also being a happy person in my life. Doing fun things, acting my age for a change. Not acting like I'm 40 and divorced five times. You don't have to be miserable to be a good actress."

"There have been some traumatic experiences in my life that have resulted in my feeling that maybe I was going insane for a little while. The question is - how do you define insanity? And how do you ever explain the feelings of anxiety and paralysing fear? I can't answer those questions. It's just a feeling of 'Am I crazy? Am I too sensitive to be in this world?' A feeling that the world is just too complicated for me right now, and I don't feel like I belong here. But it passes, and fortunately today I feel blessed for all the good things in my life," she says.

And, perhaps, Autumn In New York (2000) is not included as one of those good things. Too discreet to bite the hand that feeds her, the actress smiles and offers: "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," she says. "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. "

Author : FeatsPress