“There’s something of an expectation for young actors not only to play young, but to have that intuition of what their generation is going through and to be on that wavelength,” says Timothy Shary, a film scholar who has published multiple books on teen cinema including Generation Multiplex: The Image of Youth in American Cinema Since 1980 and Teen Films: American Youth on Screen.
“For girls of my generation who were awkward or a little bit strange, Winona Ryder was both relatable and aspirational,” wrote Alana Massey in last year.
“Winona is an actress who works directly from primal instinct,” her Alien: Resurrection director, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, said.
“This instinctual way of working is a rare quality usually only found in children.”That her acting—that she herself Like him, teen Ryder was the smart, ambivalent outsider searching for a place in a society that opposed those very things.
Even into her twenties, in Reality Bites and Girl, Interrupted, she was more of a delayed adolescent than an adult.
She even wrote Salinger a fan letter, though she never sent it.
“I kind of said, um, that I, uh, just how much it meant to me, and thanked him for it,” she told . “I received this as a gift because I’m a big fan, but I want to return it to you because I respect your privacy.” The only god she really believed in sent her a “thank you” in return. “I mean, it’s possible that his publisher just typed it and had him sign it or something, but it was the greatest thing ever.”At 27, Ryder was still praying at the altar of the prep school hero.
Ryder did, however, send him a note in 1994, along with the Christmas card. That year she showed Vogue magazine a Tiffany frame she had received as a gift from a friend.One side held a picture of her in 1990 at age 19, black clad, sunglasses, slumped on a couch, giving the finger.The other held a page from Catcher in the Rye, the one in which Holden sees “Fuck you” on the wall of his 10-year-old sister’s school (“I think, even, if I ever die, and they stick me in a cemetery, and I have a tombstone and all, it’ll say ‘Holden Caulfield’ on it, and then what year I was born and what year I died, and then right under that it’ll say ‘Fuck you’”).Two iconic teenagers, 40 years apart, side by side.“I was in Paris promoting Mermaids and I was a total insomniac and going nuts and having the worst time of my life,” Ryder explained.“It’s a very adolescent me, but it reminds me of that time so much…”For many of us, though, Winona Ryder is all the reminder we need.