Winona Ryder Riding High Again Years After Shoplifting Scandal

Photo: Winona Ryder Riding High AgainPlayCourtesy Elle
WATCH 'Black Swan'

Winona Ryder's small but juicy role as an aging former ingénue displaced by Natalie Portman's budding ingénue in "Black Swan," could be a mirror for Ryder's real life.

After growing up on film sets, starring in some of the iconic roles of the 80s and 90s and seeing her career derailed by a shoplifting scandal, Ryder is no longer the new kid on the block.

"I did relate to Beth on a certain level," she said in the current issue of Elle about her character in "Swan." "Just that thing of, you know, when I'm told I'm not the ingénue anymore. And now I'm 39. I remember when I was younger, I couldn't wait to be older, because I was always the kid on the set, I was always younger than everyone else. And now I'm older than a lot of the people I work with. I've been doing this for 25 years, which is so strange."

"I was watching TV, and there was this oldies-but-goodies film fest, and 'Lucas' came on. I was like, 'Oh my God, I'm an oldie!'" Ryder recounted.

Winona Ryder with Christian Slater in 'Heathers.'

Released in 1986, "Lucas" was Ryder's first film, in which she played opposite Corey Haim and Charlie Sheen. She followed it with roles as a goth teen in "Bettlejuice," a teenage murderess in "Heathers," Johnny Depp's on (and off) screen girlfriend in "Edward Scissorhands," and a Gen Xer in "Reality Bites." She also earned two Academy Award nominations for "Little Women" and "The Age of Innocence."

Winona Ryder as Jo in 'Little Women.'

But don't expect "Black Swan" to be her swan song. If anything, Ryder appears to be gearing up for the next phase of her career.

With little fanfare, Ryder has chosen smaller roles or smaller films in recent years -- and Hollywood has taken notice. Even though she wasn't exactly gone -- she only lowered her profile -- Ryder is definitely back.

"She can act. She can do drama like 'Black Swan' and comedy like 'The Dilemma," Lindsay Powers, deputy editor for The Hollywood told

Winona Ryder as Beth in 'Black Swan.'

In next month's "The Dilemma," a Ron Howard comedy, Ryder plays Kevin James' wife, who is caught cheating by his best friend, Vince Vaughn. The two movies couldn't be more different, but both showcase Ryder's wide talent.

Winona Ryder's Career Since Shoplifting Scandal

No longer STAR Winona Ryder, the new Ryder goes after films she wants.

"She definitely chased it," Howard told Elle about Ryder's role in "The Dilemma." "She was really willing to come in and read with Vince, to see what it all felt like. And it was great when somebody of her stature volunteers that sort of thing. We pretty much cast her on the spot."

"She's definitely doing it smartly by focusing on roles that show she can act," Powers said, "so people remember her as an actress rather than someone who got arrested for shoplifting in 2001."

Winona Ryder with former boyfriend Johnny Depp.

In that infamous incident, Ryder was arrested for shoplifting some $5,500 worth of designer clothes and accessories from the Saks Fifth Avenue store in Beverly Hills. Following a highly publicized trial, Ryder was convicted and sentenced to three years probation, 480 hours of community service and $10,000 in fines.

It's easy to think that Hollywood didn't want to touch Ryder after her conviction. Director Woody Allen in his book "Conversations with Woody Allen" wrote that in 2003 he wanted to cast Ryder in his film "Melinda and Melinda" but couldn't get a company to insure the film.

Winona Ryder during her shoplifting trial with lawyer Mark Geragos.

But Ryder told Elle her dry spell from 2001 until 2005 was self-inflicted.

"If I don't relate to the [project], even if it's something that I should do, it's hard for me to say yes," she said. "I'm the type who'd rather not work than work on something I'm not into. I've done that a couple of times, and I feel like I can totally see it in my performance."

Powers says regardless of why Ryder took time out, it was good she did.

"Shoplifting became her story at that point," she said. "When an actress' role is being overshadowed by her personal life, it's difficult for directors to put them in a film. Lindsay Lohan, who was just dropped from 'Linda Lovelace' is a perfect example."

Ironically, Ryder's misdeed pales in comparison to Lohan's or those of today's starlets. But her disappearing act definitely has us clamoring for more. And the only things she'll be stealing these days are scenes from her co-stars.

"There will more demand for her," Powers said. "There will be an audience that grew up with her that will want to see her on the big screen."

Directors are eager to work with her too. "Swan" director Darren Aronofsky, who had Ryder on set for less than two weeks, didn't want his time to end.

"There's one scene with her, where I think I did 20 or 30 takes, which is a lot," he told Elle. "But the reason I did so many is because I couldn't believe that was all [the time] I was going to get with Winona Ryder. I really just wanted to keep working with her."

Fortunately, the single and childless Ryder wants to keep working.

"I remember when I was about 18, Sean Penn made a bet with me," she told Elle. "He had just directed his first movie, and he's like, 'By the time you're 30, I will bet you $500 that you'll be sick of acting.' I'm still waiting to collect, because I'm not."

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