Stranger Things starring Winona Ryder premieres on Netflix today. Are you watching? Like, after you see Ghostbusters? I already told you I am. Because Winona Ryder. Winona was everything and it to me in the 80s and 90s and…still, forever, always. As Matt Duffer, co-creator of Stranger Things, tells the New York Times, “It’s the Winona Forever fans, there’s just a lot of them. She’s such an icon. She certainly hasn’t been forgotten. We grew up on her movies. We were hoping that if we wanted so desperately to see her onscreen that other people would feel that too”.
And what is it about Winona that endures? What is “Winona-ness”? According to Duffer:
“She has a very intense energy about her, Winona does, a wire unpredictability, a sort of anxiousness that we thought we’d really lean into.”
That’s a great description of her. And also…those eyes. Which, amazingly, were actually a disadvantage for her on a recent project. When she was working on HBO’s Show Me A Hero, creator David Simon asked her to get rid of the “Winona-ness” for that role. Winona reveals that he had specific instructions:
“He said it, like, three times: ‘Don’t show us the Winona eyes.’”
The Winona eyes, as we all know, went flat after the 90s. There was the whole shoplifting incident. And then she went away, by choice, for a few years, to get away from the industry, telling both the NYT and The Edit that she needed a break. It worked out for her career too because, as she describes it:
“I went from weirdo teenager to pixie waif to them not knowing what the hell to do with me.”
And it’s just occurred to me that it was during the rise of the Paris Hiltons and the Lindsay Lohans when Winona wasn’t around. Without them, with that class of celebrity, would we have missed her so much?