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- Mary Debra Winger
- Cleveland Heights Ohio
- United States
- Was hot in the 80's & 90's Was hot in the 80s and 90s
- Too bad it not the 80s or 90s
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 just 15. She went to Israel and joined the army there, but she didn't like it and came running home after a few months. 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. She was in the hospital when she vowed that if she ever got better, she would 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" (1976) where she played Lynda Carter's little sister, "Wonder Girl". She also made her feature film debut in the forgettable soft-core film Slumber Party '57 (1976). 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), every unknown 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. 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 director Taylor Hackford.
Her 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 Robert Kerrey, then-governor of Nebraska, while others have stated it was her back problems. Whatever her reasons were, her reputation was permanently damaged. Her long-delayed film Mike's Murder (1984) didn't help matters either when it became a critical and financial flop. Debra tried to revive her career by starring in the comedy Legal Eagles (1986) but she disliked the film so much that she publicly stated that the director, Ivan Reitman and Taylor Hackford (An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)) were two of the worst directors she ever worked with. She also walked out on her agency, CAA, but returned several years later.
Her personal life made headlines when she left Robert Kerrey and married Oscar-winning actor Timothy Hutton in 1986. In 1987, she gave birth to their son, Emmanuel 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 cameo by Hutton. She separated from Hutton in 1988 and they were divorced by 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, Winger felt that there were no good roles for her and she became a suburban wife 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 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. Nobody can deny that Debra Winger is one of the best American actresses ever. Her fans hope that Hollywood will give her a role that she play to the hilt, that can finally win her a long-overdue Academy Award.