Winona Ryder has expressed a number of thoughtful comments and perspectives on being an actor, and the kinds of pressures affecting her life – and many other talented and sensitive artists. Here are some excerpts from an Interview magazine article.
Stephen Mooallem: When you were younger did you ever get into one of those situations where you were doing back-to-back-to-back films?
Winona Ryder: I did that when I was in my late teens and then I totally had a meltdown because I was so exhausted. I mean, I wasn’t in one movie that was an overnight sensation—you know, like Pretty Woman  was for Julia Roberts. So I was lucky in the sense that my success was gradual.
But then there was a point when there was so much attention, and you get surrounded with people who sort of make you feel like you have to do everything or else it’s all going to go away.
It’s really sweet when younger actresses come up to me. It’s so touching because I know how they feel. I know what they’re going through. It’s really tough to suddenly be very famous.
I think you get this feeling like you have to kind of be what everyone thinks you are, and if you slow down, then it’s all going to go away.
If anyone ever asks me for advice, that’s sort of what I tell them: that they shouldn’t feel like they have to live up to all of this, and that it’s important to try to have a life outside of it—even just for your work.
[Related article: The Dark Side of Fame.]
It’s like, sometimes I’ll watch a movie, and it’s got some big star in it playing a working-class person, and the character is in a grocery store, and you can kind of tell, from just watching the scene, that this actor doesn’t do their own shopping. So you have to have some sense of reality. That’s why, at the height of everything, I used to go to the Laundromat to do my laundry—just because I had to sort of maintain.
I think when all that was happening, I did sort of get trapped into working too much. And then I sort of had . . . It wasn’t like a breakdown, but I was just exhausted, and I had to just stop and take care of myself.
And then I kind of segued into only wanting to do one movie a year, and I was so lucky that I was able to do that. Even though I never really had to pound the pavement as an actor, I always worked really hard. But, at the same time, I always felt like people thought that I didn’t have to struggle even though I was struggling.
I approached work very seriously. I never went out. I couldn’t fathom people who could go out to clubs . . . I mean, if I had a 6 a.m. call, I had to be prepared. I had to be in bed at a certain hour. But I definitely went through a time where I was just terrified and exhausted and I didn’t really understand.
The world just seemed, or Hollywood . . . It just got to be too much for me.
My problems seemed so glamorous to other people, and everyone just thought I was so lucky. But then, I was lucky because my family was really there for me—San Francisco was a real refuge. I think I just felt like I really wanted to hold on to who I was as a person, and try to—for lack of a more interesting way to say it—have as much of a normal life as I could.
But it was hard. Nowadays, it seems like these girls . . . I know how they’re feeling. They think it’s going to be like this forever so they’re not being more -careful. But I’ve been doing this for a quarter of a century now. I remember when so many people were the number-one person at the box office.
And I’ve also seen so many people crash and burn, or be on top and then just make some bad choices. …
[A related post: Sober young actors – Staying healthy in a business with unhealthy pressures.]
MOOALLEM: Do you still write?
RYDER: Yeah. I write pretty much every day, but I don’t have any desire to publish anything. I mean, years ago, I wrote this short story, and it got -published in some really tiny zine. I did it under another name. But it was the greatest feeling because people talked about it and they didn’t know it was me.
I can’t even describe the feeling. It was like – people liked it, but none of my baggage got in the way . . . But I do still write. There’s something about it that I just keep coming back to.
From interview by Stephen Mooallem, INTERVIEW mag. 10/24/09
~ ~ ~
Also see more quotes in the Highly Sensitive site post: Sensitivity and stress – Winona Ryder: “Maybe I’m too sensitive for this world.”
The Anxiety Relief Solutions site has Multiple drug-free self-help articles, products and programs to relieve stage fright and other forms of stress and anxiety.
Writing provides an additional, often complementary, form of creative expression for a number of actors. See my site The Inner Writer