Nineties film queen Winona Ryder is finally making a comeback, albeit on the small screen. In new Netflix series Stranger Things she returns to the spotlight in a 1980s-set drama as a single mother whose son vanishes. In the search for her lost child, she begins to unravel a government conspiracy involving supernatural forces. Think E.T. meets Twin Peaks.
In a new interview with TIME, Ryder delves into her latest acting venture and that of nostalgia; the actress is long associated with another era, a time gone by, and yet, she is back in the public eye when Hollywood is intent on capitalising on this – from series and reboots such as Jurassic Park to Independence Day and Star Wars. She hasn’t fully embraced the modern world – she still keeps old cassette tapes of important voicemails and bootleg VHS tapes of concerts and added that it took her an “embarrassingly long time” to figure out how to take a selfie on her phone.
Her character repertoire consists of quirky, strong-willed women – remember Girl Interrupted, Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands? – the likes of which she says, are not seen on screen anymore. “These days, it’s either a small movie made with no money over the course of six years or the superhero movies. I can’t really envision myself in a cape getting chucked out of a window.”
Of her approach to acting, she says, “I’m sort of old school in my approach. If I have to cry, I have to really cry. I’m allergic to the thing they use if you run out of tears.”
Ryder is now 44 and said that it was refreshing to play a character that was her age, adding that the career break she took from acting after a shoplifting incident in 2001 was tougher than she envisioned.
I took some years off, and I didn’t realise that was very dangerous in terms of my career. I was constantly being told, ‘You have to keep working so you stay relevant.’ When I was ready to come back, I was like, ‘Oh, where did everyone go?’
She was subjected to plenty a tabloid frenzy in the nineties thanks to her brief engagement when then-boyfriend Johnny Depp, and on the topic of his recent abuse allegations from ex-wife Amber Heard, Ryder had this to say: “I wasn’t there. I don’t know what happened. I’m not calling anyone a liar. I can only speak of my own situation which was wildly different, but he was never, never that way towards me. Never abusive at all towards me. I only know him as a really good, loving, caring guy who is very, very protective of the people that he loves. I’ve never seen him be violent towards another person.”
And of the here and now, she says it’s where she wants to be: “I started acting so young, I secretly wanted to be older,” she said. “I know there’s a lot of conversations right now about ageism, and I know a lot of actresses who have a tough time, and I’ve gotten offered those mom parts. But you can make something of it. For me, I’m finally getting to play my own age, and it’s liberating. I would not want to go back to playing the ingénue.”