What lives in your walls, swims through an alternate dimension, snatches up little children and spits out their bicycles? If you answered the monster from the brand new Netflix series Stranger Things congratulations. You are just as hooked as we are. This E.T.-esque, supernatural drama is a period film with a sci-fi twist. It’s not really scary. More like creepy. It feels like autumn. It looks like 1983. It’s clad in vintage telephones, walkie talkies and Trapper Keepers. It tells the tale of a crew of Dungeons and Dragons players. More than anything though, the series wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t feature one of our favorite flashbacks of all time…Winona Ryder. Who knew this unforgettable star from way back in the day had been hiding in the upside down the whole time, waiting for us to find her?
The ’90s grunge icon and 2016 comeback star of the year is certainly no stranger to the stranger things. In fact, this title basically sums up the whole of her career and the vast majority of her existence. From off-kilter dating choices to her rather unique upbringing and even her reason for returning to the limelight to begin with, Winona Ryder could certainly be described the same way she described her missing son on the Netflix smash hit. We believe her exact words were, “not like you” and later followed by “not like most.” How aptly put, Winona. Here are 15 of the stranger things she’s done throughout her life and acting career.
15. Marrying Beetlejuice
As Lydia Deetz in 1988’s box office hit, Beetlejuice, Winona Ryder’s life was, to quote the movie, “a dark room.” That room got even darker and deadlier when she realized her new place of residence was, in fact, haunted. After taking a liking to a couple of the poltergeists lurking around her abode, she started prying in the spirit world and ended up with a rather unlikely suitor, a troublemaking spirit by the name of Betelegeuse. Pronunciation “Beetle + Juice.” In a wicked twist of events, the mischievous ghost turned her house into a satanic carnival, clad her ring finger in a slithering snake and walked her up the aisle in spooky bridal attire. Winona, who did an amazing job of portraying the cynical high-schooler at the time, skyrocketed to fame as a result of this motion picture. This classic cinematic scene of matrimony will forever be remembered for the picture it emblazoned in our minds.
14. Dating The Mad Hatter Back When He Was Edward Scissorhands
Today, we all know the slightly off-kilter actor Johnny Depp, whose penchant for portraying colorful characters has made him a household name. What you might not recall, however, is his previously burning love for actress and Edward Scissorhands co-star Winona Ryder. At the peak of their peculiar off-screen romance, lover boy Johnny was even inked to showcase his heartfelt emotions. The tattoo he has that today reads, “Wino Forever” actually used to say “Winona Foreve.r”
Winona did explain, during a moment of sensitivity, that the media did little in the way of kindling romantic flames between her and the man she would later refer to as her first love. She claims she would often open a tabloid and read about a lover’s quarrel that hadn’t really happened. She also said that sometimes she would find herself acting during the relationship, living her life in a string of over-dramatized scenes. Both during and after the Ryder/Depp relationship, Winona has reflected fondly on their partnership, describing their feelings for each other as fiercely deep. She has even recently defended him against abuse allegations. It seems that, at least through Winona’s looking glass, the Mad Hatter has always had a gentle touch, even back when he had hands made out of scissors.
13. Shying Away From Social Media
In the way that only a true recluse could, Winona Ryder treads the fine line between fame and seclusion like a tightrope walking Olympian. Sure, she shows her face to the world, but her personal information is revealed in the way that she sees fit, with bits and pieces of it surfacing in places much more obscure than, say, a Twitter feed. This tactic is probably incredibly useful for whenever she feels the urge to again disappear without a trace, save a few kind words reserved for Frankenweenie, the reanimated dog. When asked about the motives behind her social media shyness, Winona offered a rather strange excuse. She claims she doesn’t quite grasp the concept of the whole social media movement and adds that if used incorrectly, it could pose the pointed threat of self-obsession, something she’d prefer not to suffer from if possible. For this reason, the stunning starlet simply refuses to flood a Facebook timeline with superficial selfies.
12. Hoarding And Maybe Inventing Hoarding
In 1994, Rolling Stone writer Jeff Giles claimed that if insomnia didn’t exist, Winona Ryder probably would have invented it. The statement was made after Winona described her very first sleepless night, a night when she would line her bed with grape fruits in a failed attempt to ward off the unsettling vigilance inside of her. She suffered insomnia and while she did not invent it, she may have invented hoarding.
Now, by no means was the young starlet’s 1994 apartment described as a jumbled, unorganized mess, the likes of which could be seen on shows like Hoarding: Buried Alive. But she herself admitted that she has an addiction to collecting things; mostly collecting memories. She also tends to stockpile obscure items like rare author’s first books and vintage outfits previously worn by movie legends but mostly, memories. Yes, indeed, Winona described her hoarding behavior as the avid collection of memories. Most of those memories were written on paper and stored in spiral notebooks, equating to an endless sea of diary entries. Just when you’d think Ms. Ryder’s reclusive nature would stand in and guard those diary entries within a fraction of her soul, however, she surprised us all with yet another of her stranger things…
11. Reading Her Diary To The Press
In that same interview, the ever-reluctant celeb came clean, baring her soul to millions of readers and even going so far as to read a few of her journal entries verbatim. Later, in a 2016 interview, Ryder would criticize the media for shaming women who are brave enough to expose their own vulnerability. In Winona’s eyes, softness can be an asset and a great strength, particularly for a woman. Some of her more vulnerable diary entries went on to explain the tribulations of fame and the affects of trying to guard romantic relationships from the hounding of bloodthirsty fans. Still others were just her thinking sideways. According to the spiral bound inscriptions, the mid ’90s Winona was feeling “fragile, a little confused, heartachey” and also “a little tired.” Today, she’s suspicious, nostalgic, and even a little bit tough, particularly when it comes to defending old friends like Johnny Depp or condemning Hollywood for shaming women out of their own feelings.
10. Having Conversations With Christmas Lights
After her son goes missing, Winona Ryder, whose present day on-screen moniker is Joyce Byers, will do just about anything to get him back. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, holding whole conversations with Christmas lights. Once she concludes that her misplaced son is making an electrical connection with her through the walls, she decks her house in more festive lights than a Griswald family vacation and concocts her very own Christmas light inspired Ouija board. Armed with a can of wet black paint, a hammer and a box of nails, Winona Ryder, as Joyce Byers, questions everything, even the writing on her very own walls. The results are deliciously weird. But did the audience enjoy it? We’re all blinking once for yes. As it turns out, Ryder has always had a strange relationship with electricity. Remember that time when she didn’t have any electricity at all?
9. Growing Up Without Electricity
So much of Winona Ryder’s personality makes sense once you delve deep into her upbringing. Her parents, a counter-culturally conscious couple, to say the least, raised her in a barn with no electricity. And not just any barn. This barn was centrally located in the middle of a commune appropriately called “Rainbow.” The only time the lights came on within the community was when they displayed movies via projector onto the barn door. Other parental hobbies of the Ryder parents included compiling a library dedicated to recreational drugs, skinny dipping in waterfalls and playing hooky with Winona. That’s right. In the Ryder household, not only were lights a luxury but skipping school was a family affair. While many people have skipped school, very few have done so in order to spend quality time with their parents. When you add up all the aforementioned factors, it’s easy to understand why this celebrity has such a strange relationship with electricity and an even stranger connection with the world.
8. Feeling Guilty About Suffering From Depression
Winona Ryder was one of the first celebrities to give the millions of people suffering from depression a voice. While she served as a great figurehead for the cause, she later explained the amount of emotional turmoil she went through along the way. Despite the fact that depression is a very common disease, Winona dealt with the constant sense of unworthiness that stemmed from leading a charmed life and being depressed at the same time. She felt that it was unfair of her to harbor feelings of depression since she and her co-actors were so highly paid and respected. Often uncomfortable in the skin of a movie star, Ms. Ryder constantly wars with two conflicting ideologies— the idea that she’s simply an actress doing what she loves, versus the idea that she’s participating in a shallow lifestyle that serves as the unfortunate aftereffect of fame. It is this inner struggle that makes the starlet so oddly intriguing both onscreen and off.
7. Spending Time In A Mental Institution
The line between the actress and the act tends to blur whenever Wynonna tackles on-screen performances. This was especially true when she played the role of a temporary psych ward resident and teen in the acclaimed production Girl, Interrupted. The film was met with high praise. It challenged us to challenge authority, labels, and what is and isn’t crazy. While filming in the mental institution, Winona filled the shoes of both actress and executive producer. Talk about piling on the pressure. Additionally, she had to deal with allegations that she herself was crazy, a label she did not care for one bit.
The motion picture was a major attempt at challenging a system that sometimes goes overboard in telling people how and what to think. The dark comedic approach to life between the walls of a 1960’s mental institution featured a star-studded cast, all of whom gave eye opening performances. The subject matter was one deserving of a spotlight and the timing was impeccable. Strangest of all was the fact that Winona had to face many of her own inner demons in order to prepare for the role, all the while exploring the difference between crazy and different. In the end, a provocative question was inevitably posed. Is there a difference between crazy and different?
6. Rolling The Dice With Her Career
The dynamic duo that is Matt and Ross Duffer (creators of the series “Stranger Things”) recently said in a 2016 interview that Winona really rolled the dice by taking on her trending role in their new hit. The dilemma? Well, actually, there were several. Firstly, the Duffer brothers had very little industry experience with film creation. They certainly weren’t household names. Furthermore, networks weren’t all too enthused by the show initially, claiming that making an adult show with children as main characters would be a huge mistake. Nonetheless, Winona was drawn to the otherworldly nature of the script and, fortunately for her, viewers at home, both young, old and in between, felt the same.
This wasn’t the first career dice roll for Winona, though. Her agent told her back in the mid ’80s that if she did Heathers it would ruin her career. We have to applaud her gambling style. She sure knows how to beat some odds.
5. Hanging Out With Frankenweenie
Winona Ryder might have shunned all of Hollywood, turned a cold shoulder to Twitter feeds, and kept her face out of timelines on Facebook, but she always made time for Frankenweenie. Of course, the film itself was yet another bit of genius brought to life (quite literally) by none other than Tim Burton in collaboration with Disney pictures. It broke several IMAX records by being the first entirely black and white film to be featured in the format while simultaneously becoming the first stop-motion 3D film of all time to grace theatres in IMAX.
Frankenweenie met great success in the box office for its creative, comedic parody of the early 1900’s effort Frankenstein. Winona contributed her voice to the effort and later admitted that performing in the production caused real tears to fall from her eyes. Tim Burton isn’t just a favorite for Winona. His work has truly changed the way the world views animation. Even his non-cartoon films are incredibly animated and you know Winona- the film had a dark side and she simply couldn’t resist.
4. Getting Dumped By A Stalker
In regard to would-be stalkers, Winona Ryder serves as the magnetic gate of unrequited love,if you will. Indeed, having a stalker sort of comes with the territory of pretty much any acting career. Leave it to Ryder to make the experience even stranger though, by adding a rather unexpected twist. Winona, queen of grunge, the dark haired, doe-eyed icon known for making Trekkies and alternative rockers alike swoon, has not only been stalked, she’s also been dumped by a stalker. According to her recollection, the lovestruck loner who fell for her hard would do anything to be close to her. This included taking roles as an extra in her movies. Naturally, the behavior rattled the young starlet and, as a precaution, she had him removed from one of the sets where she was filming. The next day he sent her an indignant letter saying he was dumping her for Alyssa Milano. We presume the lesson here is never mess with your stalker’s employment unless you want them to disappear from your life.
3. Donning The Threads Of Her Enemies
Would you have guessed that this dark-haired honey was actually born a blonde? Kind of makes you ponder doesn’t it? Winona Ryder dyed her light blonde hair jet black early on in her career and was advised to keep it that way but cohort Tim Burton had her switch things up on the set of Edward Scissorhands. Not only was she returned to her natural hair color, but she was also dressed to look the part of a small town cheerleader, just like the ones who used to taunt Ms. Ryder in her youth. The back story is as follows.
Like many movie stars, Winona Ryder once was bullied at school. She just wasn’t much like her peers. Later, she would go on to play the role of the girls who once chastised her, donning suburban, all-American preppy girl attire all the way down to the shoes .However, like a true lady, Ryder found the heart of gold that lurked beneath her character’s cheer uniform and she used that to fuel her on-screen performance. Her touching depiction of Kim Boggs, Scissorhands’ reluctant love interest, still makes us yearn for winter, magic snowflakes, and somehow, meticulously sculpted shrubbery.
2. Disappearing From Hollywood
Winner of the Golden Globe, multi-Academy Award nominee, love interest of several alternative rockers, making millions of dollars a picture…perfect time to say goodbye? For Winona, that seemed to be the case. At the turn of the century, as if taking a cue, she stepped off the scene the same way she had arrived, daintily dwindling out of existence, practically curtsying her way off the stage but never truly leaving our hearts. She became the metaphorical ballerina of curtain calls and, aside from a few minor appearances, that was pretty much the end. Some blame it on the press. Others say it was anxiety. Winona, who still has difficulty grasping the level of super-stardom she has achieved, went on to make it sound a bit more like soul searching. What was she doing during her decade long hiatus? Why, studying etymology, linguistics, and constitutional law of course. Isn’t that what hiatuses are for?
1. Returning To Hollywood To Search For Someone Who Disappeared
During the now classic film Reality Bites, Ryder and co-star Ethan Hawke examined the definition of irony. Little did she realize, she’d live on to become the definition of irony. Today, in 2016, after years of crickets chirping, the grunge queen returns to Hollywood in search of someone who disappeared. Is there a metaphor in there somewhere, a hint, or, was it just a big coincidence? If Winona has the answer, she has hidden it beneath her charm, perhaps because the mystery is part of the allure.
We’re not sure who Will Byers is supposed to represent: the childhood she always wished she had, the privacy she desperately craves as an adult, maybe the little girl who went missing from her own hometown, the one she personally put up a $200,000 reward for. Or, maybe he’s just supposed to represent a new character in a new film and a new role for our favorite missing actress. All we’re really certain of is that Winona Ryder is glamoring us again, in a Bill Compton, True Blood kind of way. The reason is obvious.
Black is the only real black and Winona wears it ever so well. Whether she’s channeling spirits or fighting against them, whether she’s living in a dark room or a mental institution, Winona Ryder continues to be the stranger we’re all dying to meet. In a world full of Kardashians, sometimes you have to travel to an alternate universe and escape with a Ryder.