Mary Debra Winger was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1955 to a Jewish family. Her maternal grandparents called her Mary, while her parents called her Debra. (Her father named her Debra after his favorite actress, Debra Paget). The family moved to California when Debra was five. She fell in love with acting in high school but kept it a secret from her family. She was a precocious teenager, having graduated high school at an early age of 15. . She enrolled in college, majoring in criminology. She worked part-time in the local amusement park when she got thrown from a truck and suffered serious injuries and went temporarily blind for several months. She was in the hospital when she vowed to pursue her passion for acting.
After she recovered, she abandoned college and studied acting. Like any struggling actor, she did commercials and guest-starred on 70s TV shows like "Police Woman: Task Force: Cop Killer: Part 1 (#2.23)" (1976) and "Wonder Woman" (1975) where she played Lynda Carter's little sister, Wonder Girl. She also made her feature film debut in the embarrassing soft-core porn film Slumber Party '57 (1976). (Years later on "Inside the Actors Studio" (1994), host James Lipton asked her to name her first film, and she refused to answer him.) Her next two films French Postcards (1979) and Thank God It's Friday (1978) did absolutely nothing for her career. When Sissy Spacek said no to playing the character Sissy in Urban Cowboy (1980), almost every young actress in Hollywood pursued the role. Debra won the role over a then-unknown Michelle Pfeiffer and gave a star-making performance as John Travolta's wife. Her handling of the mechanical bull made her a new kind of sex symbol. She would always remain grateful to her director James Bridges for threatening to quit the film if the studio didn't cast her. However, she followed it up with a flop, Cannery Row (1982). But, she became part of one of the top-grossing films of all time by providing her deep, throaty voice to the title character of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). She also received her first Academy Award nomination as Best Actress for the huge hit An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), where her on-screen love scenes with Richard Gere became just as legendary as her off-screen fights with him and with director Taylor Hackford.
Debra's reputation as a great talent, as well as her reputation as a difficult actress grew with her next film, Terms of Endearment (1983), which not only earned her a second Oscar nomination as Best Actress but also won the Best Picture as well. She also earned the Best Actress Award from the National Society of Film Critics. Debra was at the top of her game and was the most sought-after actress in Hollywood, but she turned down quality roles and lucrative offers for three years. Some speculated that the reason was her romantic involvement with Bob Kerrey, then-governor of Nebraska, while others have stated it was her back problems. Whatever her reasons were, her career lost its heat. Her long-delayed film Mike's Murder (1984), reuniting her with her "Urban Cowboy" director James Bridges, didn't help matters either when it became a critical and financial flop. Debra tried to revive her career by starring in the big-budget comedy Legal Eagles (1986), but she disliked the film so much that she publicly stated that the director, Ivan Reitman, was one of the two worst directors she worked with, the other director being Taylor Hackford (An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)). She also walked out on her agency, CAA, but returned several years later.
Her personal life made headlines when she left Bob Kerrey and eloped with Oscar-winning actor Timothy Hutton in 1986. In 1987, she gave birth to their son, Noah Hutton. She also starred in Black Widow (1987), which wasn't a hit, and acted alongside Hutton as a male angel in Made in Heaven (1987) which flopped. She followed that up by starring in another flop, Betrayed (1988), which featured a fleeting cameo by Hutton. She separated from Hutton in 1988 and they divorced in 1990, at which time she had two more bombs, Everybody Wins (1990) and The Sheltering Sky (1990). However, she relished the experience on The Sheltering Sky (1990) so much that she stayed in the Sahara desert long after filming wrapped. She came back to US and filmed a Steve Martin vehicle, Leap of Faith (1992), which did nothing for her career. But, she found love on the set of her next film, Wilder Napalm (1993) when she co-starred opposite Arliss Howard, who became her next husband. The film flopped but their marriage lasted. She received good notices for A Dangerous Woman (1993), but it was Shadowlands (1993) which finally brought her renewed respectability and her third Academy Award nomination as Best Actress. She followed that up with a forgettable comedy Forget Paris (1995). Now 40, Debra felt that there were no good roles for her and she concentrated on motherhood by having a second son, "Babe Ruth Howard", in 1997. Her six-year absence from films inspired a documentary by Rosanna Arquette titled Searching for Debra Winger (2002), which is about sexism and ageism in Hollywood. In 2001, she returned to acting in her husband's film Big Bad Love (2001), which she also co-produced. It renewed her love for acting, and she has ventured out into television as well by earning her first Emmy nomination as Best Actress for Dawn Anna (2005) (TV) directed by her husband. In 2008, she wrote a well-written book based on her personal recollections titled "Undiscovered." And she followed that up by winning rave reviews as Anne Hathaway's mother in Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married (2008). Nobody can deny that Debra Winger is one of the best American actresses ever. Her fans hope that Hollywood will finally reward her talent with a long-overdue Academy Award.
|Arliss Howard||(28 November 1996 - present) 1 child|
|Timothy Hutton||(16 March 1986 - 1 March 1990) (divorced) 1 child|
Daughter of a meat-packer
Born at 5:15pm-EDT
Graduated from Oliver Wendell Holmes Junior High School, Northridge, California, in 1970.
Graduated from James Monroe High School, Sepulveda, California, in 1973.
Sister-in-law of actor/writer Jim Howard.
Son, Babe Howard (born June 15, 1997) with Arliss Howard.
James L. Brooks wrote Broadcast News (1987) especially for her, but she turned it down because she was pregnant with her son Noah Hutton, and the role went to Holly Hunter, who was nominated for an Oscar for it.
At first, she was excited about winning the role of "Wonder Girl" on the TV series "Wonder Woman" (1975) but quickly became disillusioned and spent all her salary from the show to hire an attorney to get her out of her contract.
She was given the choice of the two roles in Black Widow (1987); she chose the role of the FBI agent, because she didn't understand the motivation as to why the Black Widow kills, so the title role went to Theresa Russell.
She became notorious for turning down worthy roles in many popular films, such as Jodie Foster's roles in Taxi Driver (1976), The Accused (1988) and The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Brooke Shields' roles in Pretty Baby (1978) and The Blue Lagoon (1980), Daryl Hannah's role in Splash (1984), Linda Hamilton's role in The Terminator (1984), Kathleen Turner's role in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), Susan Sarandon's role in Bull Durham (1988), Michelle Pfeiffer's role in The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989), Jessica Lange's role in Music Box (1989), Julia Roberts' role in Pretty Woman (1990), Demi Moore's role in Ghost (1990), Geena Davis' roles in Thelma & Louise (1991) A League of Their Own (1992), Sharon Stone's role in Basic Instinct (1992), Meg Ryan's role in Sleepless in Seattle (1993), Sandra Bullock's role in Speed (1994) and Nicole Kidman's role in To Die For (1995).
In 1995 she appeared in London, Washington, and New York with both the London Symphony and the New World Symphony under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas, performing his composition based on the life of Anne Frank.
Her notorious off-camera clashes with equally mercurial Shirley MacLaine brought out the best in both actresses in the complexity of their on-camera contentious mother/daughter relationship during the making of their Oscar- winning film Terms of Endearment (1983). When MacLaine nabbed the Best Actress Oscar instead of fellow nominee Winger in 1984 and famously shouted, "I deserve this!," she managed to address her co-star as "dear Debra" despite the fact there was no love lost between them.
Daughter of Ruth Winger.
[on her early roles in commercials] "I was the all-American face. You name it, honey - American Dairy Milk, Metropolitan Life insurance, McDonald's, Burger King. The Face That Didn't Matter - that's what I called my face."
I have trouble with star billing. I remember thinking on Cannery Row (1982): How can I put my name ahead of Steinbeck's?
[on Bernardo Bertolucci] For me, Bernardo is The Function. The only way I can explain it is in the analogy with mathematics and the word 'function' - addition, subtraction, multiplication, anything that numbers go through and change because of it. And when the function is a function of love, the drapes on the windows, the doors that are hung, the characters, the clothes, everything goes through this function and comes out touched and inspired by it. There are a lot of numbers but what really matters is the function.
It was like armor. It kept the fainthearted at a distance. But perhaps I was too tough. -- DW, at being labeled "difficult"
I used to love going on a junket and promoting a film when it was not a 24-hour news cycle, and when there weren't so many media outlets. You could actually talk about the film. And I don't mean to harp on this because, really, it's fine. It's just that it eats itself. It becomes about itself, and its symbiotic and weird and I don't understand the celebrity of it.
[on Legal Eagles (1986)] I don't regret doing it, but I don't think it stands on its own against good films. It was a nightmare to make. Shooting was supposed to be ten weeks, and it went on for four months. And it was fat - almost $40 million - and, politically, I'm opposed to that kind of money unless it's an epic. I took my salary and left.
I do admit to being challenging, but it's always for the work, it's never personal. I will walk out on a scene if it's all lit and ready to go but it's not happening. Just because we're on schedule is no reason to shoot bad acting. Someone once said to me, "You're inconsiderate." And I said, "Inconsiderate? Bad acting is the ultimate inconsideration." It's a collective slap to a million faces at the same time.
[on Urban Cowboy (1980)]: I loved it. It was the opening of everything for me because of the way James Bridges worked: the freedom, the collaboration, the end product. It was a slice of life, that movie. I'm real proud of it.
|The Sheltering Sky (1990)||$3,000,000|
(June 2008) Release of her book, "Undiscovered".
|You may report errors and omissions on this page to the IMDb database managers. They will be examined and if approved will be included in a future update. Clicking the 'Edit page' button will take you through a step-by-step process.|
|With our Resume service you can add photos and build a complete resume to help you achieve the best possible presentation on the IMDb.|
Click here to add your resume and/or your photos to IMDb.