Winona Ryder on ‘Stranger Things’ and, even stranger, being ‘married’ to Keanu Reeves
LOS ANGELES—Did you know that Winona Ryder is “married” to Keanu Reeves? In our recent chat, the actress not only talked about her popular series, “Stranger Things,” but also the stranger story that she and Keanu are wife and husband.
It’s all tongue-in-cheek and Winona was appropriately dressed in a whimsical blouse with prints of David Bowie’s face by Jun Takahashi for the Undercover label.
Winona, known for such films as “Little Women,” “The Age of Innocence,” “Heathers,” “Girl, Interrupted” and “Edward Scissorhands,” is enjoying a career renaissance, thanks to “Stranger Things.”
She plays a mom, Joyce Byers, in the Netflix sci-fi horror series that nurtured the rise of young actors in the cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer, Noah Schnapp, Sadie Sink, Joe Keery, Charlie Heaton, Dacre Montgomery, Priah Ferguson and Maya Hawke.
Excerpts from our interview:
I came across stories that you are married to Keanu. Poor Keanu.
Can you clarify how this being married to Keanu story began? The funny thing was that Keanu and I did this little movie and we were doing press. It came into my head as we were being interviewed that—and I’d told Keanu before—when we did “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” we did a very long [wedding] take in a church with a real Romanian priest.
I was like, “I think we’re married.” Then I said it, and it just spread like wildfire. It sounded like I planned it. I actually hadn’t. Strangely, (Francis Ford) Coppola (who directed) gave a statement saying, “Yes…” I don’t know. I like to think so, but…
Do you and Keanu have a secret married life? I was actually just texting [him] last night… Yeah, no. We’re very good friends. I will not give him a divorce. I’m like, “You are mine forever.” I won’t threaten him with divorce because I’m scared he’ll take it. He is one of my favorite humans.
What would a perfect honeymoon with Keanu be like? Oh my gosh. I can’t say. Everyday with him is like a…
Honeymoon? I love him so much.
You were enjoying a quiet, under-the-radar life in San Francisco. How did the popularity of “Stranger Things” impact your life? I’d never actually signed onto a series before. I’d done “Show Me a Hero,” but that was just a six-part thing and a small part.
We didn’t have any idea how “Stranger Things” was going to be received, and it certainly was overwhelming, but in an incredible way. The kids are so incredible, as is David (Harbour).
We film so much, so if I’m not there (on set), then I’m home. It’s different for me than it is for the kids. They’re the ones with the most focused attention from the world.
“Stranger Things 3” is described as the summer of love. Can you talk about your character, Joyce, in that respect? She lost her love last season, but David’s Jim is around. I’ve never been on a show where I couldn’t fully talk about stuff that I would like to talk about or to answer all of your questions.
This season was great because I had so much to do with David. We spent pretty much the season together. You see our dynamic much more.
It’s always bittersweet because I miss the kids, I miss Charlie (Heaton) and Noah (Schnapp) and miss working with them. There’s definitely a lot more of us and our dynamic. I can’t say anything else! I’m so sorry.
This is like the second part of your career. How different is it from your first taste of success? It’s very different. It’s like two completely different worlds. Because when I started out, there was no internet, and no cell phones even. And certainly, no cameras in phones.
Now, it’s not just if someone happens to have a camera. It’s people who are on their phones so much. That didn’t happen back then. I do get nostalgic for that [time].
It’s also been wonderful to get to continue working. At my age, I’m 47—it can be hard. I’m just incredibly grateful for the opportunities I have. The work has always been the same, my process. I certainly never foresaw being in a show that is this popular. It’s been great to experience both. Definitely.
How is it working with Millie Bobby Brown? It must be interesting for you to glimpse what it is like for someone that age to go through something similar to what you went though years ago. I wasn’t an overnight success. I’ve thought a lot about it. It’s because of the access, the Internet. When I started, I think I did, like, five movies before I was even interviewed.
There were a few magazines, and you’d have to wait for them to come out. If you were a fan of someone, you’d maybe do clippings. It was such a different world…
It’s hard to imagine what these kids are going through. I do definitely feel very protective of them. It’s hard because I’m a fake (only a screen) mom.
I do think, with the kids, that the most important thing, and this is something I thought a lot about over the last few years, just in wanting to be there for them, is when the choice gets taken away.
I was very lucky, in retrospect, that my parents insisted I had to stay in school. I had to maintain a grade point average.
I had to only work during the summer. It was important to have a place to go back to. There are kids who aren’t with us anymore.
But I just remind them of that. The thing that I also always come back to is, the work is the reward. It’s the work itself, those moments…
They seem to be a group of good kids. They’re doing well. They’re amazing. They’re incredible kids.
In previous seasons, one of your character’s kids is always in jeopardy. You were the anguished mom, trying to save your kids. In this season, it seems your character’s anguish is about whether David’s Jim Hopper is going to kiss her. Is it a nice break to have something more optimistic in your character’s trajectory? I always felt this way about Joyce. She is kind of a good detective, and I love detectives.
I don’t know if you can see, but I have a necklace that says “Briscoe” on it from Jerry Orbach. He’s a great character [in “Law & Order”]. He was one of my favorite detectives. I felt that way about her, but it was drowned out by the hysteria and theatrics.
But, which I do defend, because I upped the circumstance. Most mothers would flip out like that.
But it was great to have this whole other thing. You get to see what Joyce is like, just in a completely different way. She’s no Briscoe, but I think she is good. She is the one who’s figuring it out.
But with romance coming into Joyce’s life, does that give you something different and interesting to play with? I don’t know what I can and can’t say, but it’s just really great to get to work with David so much and get to see their characters together.
I think there is something special between them that is scary for both of them.
Matt Duffer, one of the creators, said that he and Ross Duffer love to rediscover great talents from movies like you, and now, they are bringing Cary Elwes. We did “Dracula” together! It’s great to have him. He’s such a lovely person. He’s fantastic in the show. I don’t have that much with him, but he was a lot of fun to be around. He just was aces.
And it was sweet, too because I had done “Dracula” with him, so we had all of these crazy [memories]. But you know, Cary is also a god. His “The Princess Bride” was like the biggest movie in the ’80s, right?
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