“I will admit I was guilty of that when I was younger because you get caught up in it, surrounded by people that are telling you that it’s the most important thing, and you’re young and you believe it.” Most remember what happened next: She was arrested in 2001 for shoplifting 00 worth of merchandise from Saks Fifth Avenue.Police found in her possession a syringe and painkillers. “It was really important for me to get out,” she says.Soon everything she touched was destined to be a box office hit or cult classic.To say Ryder was the “it girl” of the ’90s is to understate her potency as an actress.She calls the thought “unimaginable.” “I can only speak from my own experience, which was wildly different than what is being said,” Ryder says. “Imagine if someone you dated when you were—I was 17 when I met him—was accused of that. I have never seen him be violent toward a person before.” She understands why I asked about it in the first place—abusers can show patterns of abuse, and the allegations are so serious.But otherwise, Ryder has gone to great lengths to keep her private life private after run-ins with the media in her early years and a seemingly endless effort to project a certain persona.She spent a few years on a commune before moving to the small town of Petaluma, California.
It won co-star Angelina Jolie an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, but Ryder’s career was beginning to stall. “You can’t look to the industry to validate you as a person because that can just lead to incredible disappointment,” she says.Partially by choice and partially because she has a look that defies actress stereotypes—a producer notoriously told her as a teen that she wasn’t pretty enough for Hollywood—Ryder outshone her chipper contemporaries by starring in, well, stranger things, like Heathers and Mermaids.Even when she donned a blonde wig to play the high school cheerleader, it was for Tim Burton’s surreal Edward Scissorhands.She spent time in San Francisco, where her family lives.“I took some years off, and I didn’t realize that was very dangerous in terms of my career. I think mine were—people might see them as awful—but I learned, and I appreciated the time away.” For almost a decade, Ryder was largely missing from the screen, in part because studios couldn’t figure out how to use this iconic rebel teen who was no longer a teen.But the nearly decade-long hiatus that followed left her tethered to the moment she exited the public eye. I’m allergic to the thing they use [to help actors cry] if you literally run out of tears,” says Ryder.America watched her male co-stars—like Ethan Hawke, Christian Slater and Johnny Depp—continue to grow up, as they became increasingly bankable movie stars. She gives an urgent performance that serves as the show’s beating heart. “There are some people who can turn it on and turn it off or use this stuff, but I really have to go there mentally.While audiences remember some actors based on one or two great films, Ryder had such a long run playing strange, rebellious women in the late ’80s and ’90s—Beetlejuice, Heathers and Dracula, among others—that her doe-eyed gaze conjures up a mood more than a memory.Yet movie-making has become so stratified that characters like the ones that made her famous are hardly around anymore.But for the viewers who haven’t seen the handful of small roles she’s taken over the past few years, Ryder is still frozen in time. Ryder’s strengths align with its eerie vibe—think E. Usually on a film there’s a couple of scenes, but this was my first time doing eight episodes of something, and let me tell you, crying all day,” she pauses.“Wow.” *** Born in 1971 to two writers in a farmhouse near Winona, Minnesota, Ryder had a rather unconventional childhood.