Why Winona Ryder has been haunted by horrors of Holocaust since her childhood – Mirror Online

Posted By on July 13, 2020

When Winona Horowitz was a little girl, she used to sleep in the doorway of her parents bedroom.

Her greatest fear was someone would knock on the door and drag them off to be murdered... like her fathers family who perished in the Holocaust.

I think it came from overhearing stories of what happened in the camps, says the actress now known to the world as Winona Ryder.

I was terrified of being separated from them. In World War II, my mums father died fighting the Nazis in the Pacific and, on my fathers side, family members died in the camps.

I am grateful my parents told me the truth, though they had to pick the right age to tell me because it is so horrific.

But I used to go to the library and look at books about it. I couldnt stop turning the pages and thought, This is horrible, why am I doing this?

Then I realised maybe I was looking for my family, for someone I recognised.

Winona, 48, has been a war buff ever since. That may surprise fans who recall the Goth icon and poster girl of the 1980s and 1990s who starred in Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Bram Stokers Dracula and Girl, Interrupted.

But she remains one of Hollywoods most intriguing and unconventional leading ladies, with a rollercoaster personal life.

Yet her Jewish heritage has also seen her experience anti-semitism at first hand. There are times when people have said, Wait, youre Jewish? But youre so pretty! she revealed recently.

There was a movie I was up for a long time ago a period piece and the studio head, who was Jewish, said I looked too Jewish to be in a blue-blooded family.

And only last month Winona became embroiled in a row with Mel Gibson after repeating an allegation that, years ago, he asked her if she was an oven dodger a term referring to the gas chambers.

Actor Gibson accused her of lying, saying in a new statement: This is 100 per cent untrue.

The exchange came as Winona hits TV screens once more in The Plot Against America, which starts on Sky Atlantic on Tuesday.

Based on Philip Roths novel and with a screenplay by the creators of The Wire, it tells of a working-class Jewish family living in an alternate 1940s New Jersey.

Aviator Charles Lindbergh ascends to the Presidency on a wave of xenophobic and anti-semitic rhetoric, opposing US intervention in the war.

Winona plays Evelyn Finkel, who falls for a charismatic Nazi-sympathising rabbi. She believes the story is uncannily relevant amid the rise of political hate-speak.

Its a very personal story, she says.

If you are a grandchild or a child of European Jews, its hard not to be untouched by it.

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Its also a taste of what were living in now and what we might possibly be heading into in the future, if we dont get out and vote. Im excited because a lot of my fans are young and this is timely and relevant.

Named after her home town of Winona, Minnesota, she grew up in a commune outside San Francisco where her bohemian author parents became friends with beat poet Allen Ginsberg.

Her godfather is LSD guru Timothy Leary, the psychologist who wanted to turn America on to psychedelic drugs. Her first movie role, aged 13, was in high-school flick Lucas. She was bullied at her own school for looking like an effeminate boy. When 1988 hit Beetlejuice made her famous she thought things would improve.

But it made things worse, she said. They called me a witch.

In the same year, then 17, she won rave reviews as the murderous teenage girlfriend of Christian Slater in cult hit Heathers. Then, in 1990, she fell in love with her Edward Scissorhands co-star Johnny Depp.

She was 17, he was 26. They got engaged after five months.

He was my first everything, she said later. My first real kiss. My first real boyfriend. My first fianc. The first guy I had sex with.

Their split, three years on, left both deeply wounded. Depp famously had the tattoo Winona Forever on his arm changed to Wino Forever. Director Tim Burton said that afterwards he wasnt acting like Johnny any more. Its almost like Winona took Johnnys soul.

Winona tried to drown her sorrows with booze and almost ended up dying when a lit cigarette set fire to her hotel room.

The pair remained close and Winona is currently preparing to give evidence supporting Depp in his High Court libel action over allegations that he beat his former wife Amber Heard.

A string of movie hits dotted the 1990s for Winona. Martin Scorseses The Age of Innocence in 1993 won her a Golden Globe.

A year later she played Jo March in Little Women dedicating the role to Polly Klaas, 12, a girl from her home town who was kidnapped and murdered. She remains close to the family and supports a foundation in Pollys name.

But in 2001, problems surfaced when Winona was arrested for shoplifting $6,000 worth of merchandise from Saks Fifth Avenue in Los Angeles. Police found her with a syringe, painkillers and tranquillisers provided by a quack doctor.

Winona was given community service, handed hefty fines and placed on probation for three years.

She stopped acting for a while what she calls my hiatus. In 2010 she made a blistering movie return in Black Swan as an ageing ballerina fighting to stay relevant.

A year later she fell for Scott Mackinlay Hahn, who she has been spending lockdown with. In 2016, she won a new army of fans as a determined single mum in Netflix s sci-fi thriller series Stranger Things.

And she was delighted to play Evelyn in The Plot Against America, not least because Philip Roth is a favourite author and she loved his 2004 novel. I read it one sitting, its a brilliant book and really interesting because of my own family history, she said.

The novel has taken on a new significance in light of Donald Trump s divisive presidency. One line really sums that up: Theres a lot of hate out there. And he knows how to tap into it.

Can you believe that? says Winona. Its pretty incredible how relevant it is.

She has even been accused of taking on the role as an anti-Trump protest. Winona says: Apparently, I said a few things and someone said, Well 62 million people are now going to boycott Stranger Things so there!

But you cant just sit back because you dont want to be disliked or have people not watch your show.

Im the daughter of two writers and historians and was really lucky I got to grow up in a family that talked about stuff that wasnt being discussed.

In school, when teaching historical stuff, Id say, Well what about when this happened? and I literally got detention. Now Im astonished at some of the things going on.

I never thought Id see a swastika paraded at a march and shown on national TV. So its now or never. You have to take a stand, you have to! And the way to do that is by voting.

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Why Winona Ryder has been haunted by horrors of Holocaust since her childhood - Mirror Online

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