Friday, June 20, 2008

Whatever Happened To...

I was a little surprised tonight to find the face of the long-lost Debra Winger--aging but still prettily recognizable, her curly brown hair now shot with a bit of gray--staring back at me from the pages of this week's People Magazine.

Winger, you may or may not recall, made an abrupt departure from the movie industry at what was, arguably, the apex of her career. After huge successes with some of the biggest films of the 1980's and 90's like "Terms of Endearment", "Urban Cowboy", and "An Officer and a Gentleman", Winger walked away from it all and into a life of relative obscurity.

Leaving fans like me going...WTF? Come back! We love you Debra!

Winger's disappearance eventually inspired a documentary film released in 2002, "Searching for Debra Winger", written and directed by (another girl you gotta love) Rosanna Arquette. Arquette explores the age-old question of the choices and sacrifices women face in order to make it in the youth and beauty obsessed film industry. Apparently, Winger wasn't so pro on being told she needed to lose a few pounds or about having the quality and appearance of her skin rather than her actual acting ability determining her career options. Go figure.

And then there's the teensy little question of motherhood. According to Winger,

"Anyone that says having children isn't a sacrifice is pretty much lying or not taking care of their kids."

Sing it, sister.

Winger has two sons, Noah now 21 by first husband Timothy Hutton, and Babe, age 11, with current husband Arliss Howard.

According to the People story, Winger has resurfaced to promote her recently released memoir, "Undiscovered" a book that reflects on her years away from the spotlight. Here's an excerpt from the preface:
It is a beautiful spring day in May, and I am pruning my boxwoods. I planted them seven years ago with the intention of having a major topiary experience, but most years I find myself editing them to their most essential square. When pruning boxwoods, it is recommended that you not cut into the leaf. You must find the "Y" in the twig and cut it from there, otherwise you risk harming the shrub's growth. I find this small yet precise move, leading to a large overall effect, very familiar.

A dozen years ago the question of where I was going got louder than anything else in my head. My life had taken a certain trajectory into the world of films and stardom when I was quite young, and I hadn't stopped to question it. But in truth, it was like wanting a pony for your birthday and getting a big shiny merry-go-round instead.

Although I have participated in the odd film project here and there over the last twelve years, I had no real desire to hop back on that merry-go-round. I watched others as they grabbed for the golden ring and felt fine out in the country on my pony. It is a strange experience to be so in a certain world, and then not. I tried to imagine how to start anew.

I collected doors: odd ones from barns, farms, homes, and from my travels. I have dreamed of them in the forest, imagining myself walking through just the right one when I need a boost. I see them as thresholds to newness. Transformations can begin with a start.

Once, my friend and mentor James Bridges found me hiding under the covers, as I often did when I finished a job. I always felt that the roles I accepted must be inextricably linked to my life if I were to keep finding the passion to fuel each job. I had been to the desert making a film, and now everything in my life looked different. He quoted, "She took to her bed to lose her looks."

Charles Dickens, I think. It always made me smile. I could never quite decide if it was about the way the world looked at me or about the way I looked at the world.

I am always searching for the next door, the next role, the next change.

But right now I am pruning boxwoods, twelve to be exact, and I am wondering just how long it will take my mind to stop chattering and allow me to write. A fat red robin with the most laughably blue eggs in its nest is flying to the mud beneath the mailbox, hunting worms like letters from the earth. I want her to come and write this preface.

This morning in May, I am cutting boxwoods, pre-face and after-words on the threshold of my slender volume, with no instructions, directives, or map -- just a sort of pruning of a dozen years to their essential square

As a bonus, Winger assures People she's never had plastic surgery and never will. Says Winger, "There's too much money spent on it. They should have a bucket out there in L.A.: If you're tempted, just put your money in this bucket instead, and all those causes you love--we'll just send it."


Sandra Ree said...

Good for her! I've always loved Debra Winger.

Brenda said...

I must read that book!