What the Hell Happened to Debra Winger?

Debra Winger

Debra Winger has received three Academy Award nominations.  She’s been nominated four times by the Golden Globes.  Not to mention numerous nominations for various critics’ awards and a couple of wins.  But despite the acclaim, she had a toxic reputation for being “difficult” – a reputation which she reinforced by trash-talking co-stars and directors.

After over a decade as one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actresses, Winger walked away.  Even among actresses where this sort of thing is common, Winger’s disappearance was perplexing.  So much so that it was the inspiration for a documentary titled What the Hell Happened to Debra Winger? 

No wait, that’s not right.  It was actually called Searching for Debra Winger.  but it might as well have been the original What the Hell Happened?

So, what the hell happened?

At a young age, Winger was in a serious car accident and suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.  This left her partially paralyzed and blind for ten months!  Doctors told her she would never see again.  During this time, she decided that if she recovered she would move to California and become an actress.  When she did recover, Winger did exactly that.

winger slumber party

Winger got her start in the sexploitation pic, Slumber Party ’57 which was actually released in 1976.  She played a high school girl named Debbie who spends the night at a slumber party with her friends.  The girls tell stories of their first sexual experiences. It’s every bit as cheap and cheesy as it sounds.

winger - wonder girl

Winger’s next role was equally improbably.  She appeared opposite Lynda Carter on three episodes of the TV show Wonder Woman.  She played Carter’s little sister and sidekick, Wonder Girl.

In later years after Winger had established herself as an Oscar contender, she had fun with the role on talk shows.  This clip from Letterman is a classic:

Winger had nothing good to say about Carter.  She frequently told the story of how Carter would not allow her to have the same kind of support that she had in her costume.  She also made an off-color reference to a scandal Carter was going through at the time which elicited stunned gasps from the audience.  Years later, Carter responded to Winger’s accusations on Larry King:

winger - tgif

In 1978, Winger got her first role in a mainstream Hollywood movie.  It was the disco extravaganza, Thank God It’s Friday.

Winger played the new girl in town who is naturally seduced by the irresistable allure of disco and a club owner played by Jeff Goldblum.  TGIF was less of a movie than a feature-length music video for the triple-album soundtrack featuring disco acts like The Commodores, Donna Summer and Thelma Huston.

Donna Summer’s hit, Last Dance, won Best Song at the Academy Awards leading film critic Leonard Maltin to call Thank God It’s Friday “the worst film ever to have won some kind of Academy Award.”

The following year, Winger appeared in French Postcards, a coming-of-age drama about American students discovering themselves in France.  It was co-written and directed by Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz who co-wrote American Graffiti.

winger - urban cowboy

Winger got her big break in 1980 opposite John Travolta in Urban Cowboy.

Urban Cowboy was to country music what Saturday Night Fever was to disco.  Only less so.  Urban Cowboy got decent reviews and was a modest hit at the box office.  It helped popularize country music (and mechanical bulls), but didn’t become the cultural touchstone that Fever did.

Speaking of mechanical bulls, wanna see Winger ride one?  Of course you do.  Here’s a clip:

That sexy bull riding helped Winger get noticed by critics and the Golden Globes.  She was nominated for several awards including the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.

Originally, Sissy Spacek was cast in Winger’s role.  But production was postponed when Travolta was bit by his dog.  The delay caused Spacek to drop out.  Michelle Pfeiffer was also up for the role, but Winger was ultimately cast.

Director James Bridges described a fight with Winger:

”She refused to play a scene, and I had to shut down the set for a whole day. I was furious with her, but then I looked at the scene and realized that there was something wrong with the dialogue. Her instinct had been right.”

Next: An Officer and a Gentleman and E.T

Posted on February 2, 2013, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actress and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 65 Comments.

  1. She sounds like a real asshole. No wonder why people can’t stand her and don’t want to work with her. And when she came out in support of Polanski the rapist turned me off even more from her or her “work”.

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    • There are a few who speak well of her. And most everyone praises her talent. But, yeah, she had issues. She repeatedly broke the unwritten rule that you don’t trash your movie or your co-workers in the press.

      I left the Polanski thing out. But she did indeed come to his defense.

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      • Well you did a great job on it just the same. I love your blog and just recently started following it. I don’t typically like to be so blunt or crass when describing people as my opening line comes off, but sometimes that word just fits. Poor Lynda Carter but what a class act. Deb could learn a thing or two from her!

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        • Hey thanks.

          Don’t worry about being crass. In this case, the shoe fits. Even Winger’s defenders admit she completely lacks tact. If she weren’t such a talented actress, she never would have gotten away with this kind of behavior.

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      • DW defended Polanski?!? Some “feminist” she is! So if you’re a Great Director then rape is somehow excusable? If Polanski is NOT guilty, let him return to the US for trial.

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    • I wouldn’t be surprised if Debra Winger’s “self-imposed” exile from Hollywood really had to do w/ the powers that be in Hollywood pretty much blacklisting her due to her bitchy reputation!

      One great analogy that I found regarding Debra Winger’s alleged antics on the set of “Terms of Endearment” to that of Lindsay Lohan’s on the set of “Georgia Rule”.

      Here’s a thread on Debra’s IMDb message board that discusses her difficult to work with reputation:

      http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000700/board/flat/74640565?p=1

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      • She definitely had a bad rep. I think more than her on-set behavior, the thing that hurt her was trashing her movies and co-stars in the media. That is really biting the hand that feeds you. Why on earth would you want to hire Winger – no matter how talented she is – if there is a good chance she’ll go on Letterman and trash you and your movie. Or refuse to promote it at all. Even Lohan knows better than to do that.

        Having said that, I think Winger largely showed herself the door. Few were sorry to see her go. And I’m sure the limited offerings helped Winger with her decision. But if she had wanted to continue working, she would still have found work.

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      • “If Debra Winger’s “self-imposed” exile from Hollywood really had to do w/ the powers that be in Hollywood pretty much blacklisting her due to her bitchy reputation!”

        Winger was not blacklisted for Hollywood. She choose to retired in 1995, only to come out of retirement like so many actresses do.

        And FYI while her last film before her originally retirement was not a huge critical success. Forget Paris was not a huge failure at the B.O., at least not as big as you claim it was.

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        • Who said Forget Paris was a huge failure? I said it “fared poorly” which I feel is accurate. I couldn’t find anybody claiming the movie was a bomb. Did I miss something?

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          • “Forget Paris got mixed to negative reviews and fared poorly at the box office”.

            Well it actually did okay at the B.O. 33 million, and an opening weekend of 5 million, plus decent legs (it saw a 32% jump in its second weekend).

            Wasn’t a big success, but I wouldn’t say it fared poorly at the Box Office. A disappointment maybe?

            As for critics, I know Siskel and Ebert were big fans of the films (although I’m not really keen when it comes to critics admittedly).

            Surprised to see you respond so quickly.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Decent article by the way. I just don’t agree with some of your points (as you can obviously read).

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              • Glad you liked the article. All opinions are welcome whether they agree with my own or not.

                Quantifying movies that were neither big hits nor flops always gets me in trouble with someone. It’s definitely a judgment call. At the end of the day, a movie like Forget Paris performs how the majority of movies perform. No one lost their jobs over Forget Paris. No one celebrated either.

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                • Shakespeare I Am Not

                  Absolutely right lebeau. What is sometimes left off in these movie costs is promotion of the film which can sometimes equal the cost of the film itself. I would be very surprised after adding this in if it even made a fifteen percent profit. I DON’T KNOW this it’s just supposition on my part.

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                  • Excellent point. I get this all the time when people want to argue that a movie was a hit because it’s gross was larger than it’s production costs. It is nowhere near that simple. There are deals on the back end that come out of the gross. Production costs don’t cover marketing costs which are often sky high.

                    Of course at the end of the day, most movies will likely break even with residual income. But breaking even is a disaster in Hollywood. The name of the game is big profits. If all you did was break even, you failed. And if you’re a studio head who is just breaking even, you better watch your back.

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            • I happened to be here. Lucky you, right? ;)

              I consider “disappointment” and “fared poorly” to be roughly equivalent. It turned a small profit. Counting marketing costs, it probably just about broke even. It definitely wasn’t a success. Not even a modest one. But it wasn’t a flop either.

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        • Re: Most Notorious Actor vs. Director Feuds:

          http://www.datalounge.com/cgi-bin/iowa/ajax.html?t=11608867#page:showThread,11608867,7

          Debra Winger fought so bitterly with so many of her directors–and later so publicly disparaged their talents–that no one wanted to work with her anymore, despite her prodigious talents. Who wants to work with an a**hole? She then later complained about not getting any good work in Hollywood, but she did it to herself. The same thing is true for Val Kilmer: he screwed himself out of getting good work anymore by being so mean.

          by: Anonymous reply 140 05/26/2012 @ 03:34AM

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      • 8 Great Actors Whose Bad Experiences Caused Them To Quit Hollywood:

        http://whatculture.com/film/8-great-actors-whose-bad-experiences-caused-quit-hollywood.php/7

        1. Escaping Hollywood’s Obsession With Youth And Image – Debra Winger

        These days, the name Debra Winger is a far cry from a household name – many younger film fans are unlikely to have heard of her at all. But back in the 80s and 90s she certainly was – having earned 3 nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress for films like An Officer and a Gentleman and Terms of Endearment, she was arguably the hottest actress working in Hollywood.

        Then, in 1995, she turned her back on it all, deciding she was unwilling to play along with Hollywood’s obsession with youth and image. Speaking of her hiatus from acting, Winger said, “I wanted out for years. I got sick of hearing myself say I wanted to quit. It’s like opening an interview with ‘I hate interviews!’ Well, get out! I stopped reading scripts and stopped caring.” Her absence even sparked fellow actor Rosanna Arquette to produce the documentary Searching for Debra Winger, exploring the pressures faced by women working in Hollywood.

        Winger has worked intermittently in the years since she abandoned Hollywood, most notably on Rachel Getting Married, but her presence on the big screen is unlikely to return to the same level as seen in her heyday – Hollywood, after all, is a bit fickle about women over a certain age

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  2. Great post! You know what’s weird? I get Winger mixed up with Sean Young all the time, and attribute Young’s antics to Winger in my mind.

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  3. Really excellent installment!

    I never really understood how she kept coming up with so much high profile work. She’s a good actress with decent on-screen appeal, but how many people were going to films based on Winger being in them? Not many, I’m guessing.

    Gere was right about that final scene of An Officer and a Gentleman. That is a good example of the odious cheese that was way too prevalent in the 70s & 80s. But Winger was also right in her estimation of Gere as an actor. That guy is way too often more aware of the camera than he is of his acting partner.

    When my family flew to Europe for a vacation in 1983, An Officer and a Gentleman was our in-flight movie. My memory says that it was completely unedited. How times have changed.

    Forget Paris is a little underrated in my mind. I really like the way the script is structured and the way that allows the film’s supporting performers to shine. But I understand why it wasn’t much of a hit. Romantic comedy audiences tend to enjoy seeing younger actors fall in love instead of older actors dealing with its disappointments.

    I wonder how she’s getting along with her co-workers nowadays? Her type could make her very employable for a long time if her behavior has ‘leveled off.’

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    • Thanks, Daffy.

      As I was researching this installment, I got more and more excited to write it. So much good stuff!

      Gere was right and wrong about Officer and a Gentleman. He was right that the ending is pure cheese. And it shouldn’t have worked in a million years. But it did.

      Winger was wrong about a lot of her co-stars, but right about Gere to a large degree. I have often said that Gere has little chemistry except with himself. The exceptions that come to mind are with Winger and Roberts.

      I haven’t re-watched Forget Paris since it came out. It is on my DVR, but time prevented me from rewatching it before writing the article. I do intend to revisit it when time permits. My memory of it was that while it was flawed, it had a lot going for it. So I can agree that it is somewhat under-rated.

      The impression that I get is that Winger has mellowed with age. She’s still unapologetic about anything she has said in the past. But she downplays it now. She says she and Gere joke about their past.

      I actually think she’ll continue working in supporting roles for a long time. She’ll probably continue to get great reviews and awards recognition until a ripe old age.

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      • Debra Winger in An Officer and a Gentleman:

        http://oscarnerd.blogspot.com/2012/01/debra-winger-in-officer-and-gentleman.html

        Debra Winger received her first Oscar nomination for playing Paula Pokrifki, a girl falling for a man who’s training in her town to become an aviator in the box office hit, An Officer and a Gentleman. When Debra received her nomination, her father went on record and said that they were very happy about her nomination and all of them (including Debra) believed that Meryl should win the Oscar. Since I can’t officially agree or disagree with him (since I have two other ladies left), let me just say how cool it was to say that. Anyhow, I keep wondering how the Academy voted, especially in her case. Jessica was probably second (more on that later), but Debra could have been fifth, fourth or even third, considering the huge success of the movie. I suppose it was a tough one between Julie and her, but honestly, 95% of the votes went to Meryl and Jessica and they were battling out the rest.

        To fully show what kind of a movie An Officer and a Gentleman is, let me just reveal the very last scene (SPOILER): Richard Gere takes out Debra Winger on his arms, while the factory workers are clapping around them and you can hear the famous, very 80s theme of the movie. (SPOILER OFF!) Are you f-ing kidding with me? Seriously, it’s one of the lamest “romantic” endings I have ever seen (wonder where Titanic’s ending came from). Overall, it’s no wonder that this film was a smash hit in the early 80s. I suppose the same thing would happen nowadays. Louis Gossett Jr. gives a memorable performance, but that’s no something I would give him an Academy Award (Supporting Actor was really weak that year; or isn’t it every year?).

        Where are you Debra Winger? OK, In Treatment and occasionally fighting with Anne Hathaway, but I am really curious what she would be able to get out of her parts nowadays, at this point of her life. Rachel Getting Married wonderfully showed all the potential she had inside, revealing tons of emotions in very limited screen-time. However, thirty years ago she wasn’t a real household name yet, despite receiving great acclaim and a Golden Globe nomination for Urban Cowboy. I suppose her Best Actress nomination came just like Rooney Mara’s this year. Both of them had a praised supporting performance and along came a role in a box office hit that brought them an Oscar nod.

        After providing E.T. with her voice, Debra played Paula, which I consider her finest performance that I’ve seen. Although An Officer and a Gentleman has basically no clue about how people and life work, Debra was able to turn in a beautiful, wonderful and deeply layered performance in one of the most one-dimensional role an actress can get. Obviously, it was Richard Gere who got the big, flashy scene (screwed up most of them royally) and Debra got the little screen-time and the (sort of) unshowy part, which is considered a supporting role by many. Then how the hell is Debra so fantastic here?

        I suppose Debra’s greatness in this movie has a lot to do with the fact that she didn’t have a very polished style of acting at the time. In Terms of Endearment, I sensed that she was playing for the tears and the effect, but in An Officer and a Gentleman, I felt purity, naturality and beauty coming from her presence. She had lots of confidence here and she almost bursts with the energy inside her. Her deep, throaty voice just adds up to the fantastic outcome of this performance. She’s wonderfully sexy and completely irresistible.

        When we first see her, she’s not an otherworldly, beautiful creature one would expect in a romantic movie, she seems actually quite ordinary. She’s a working girl (it kills me just to think about Melanie Griffith), waiting for the end of her shift. However, after a fast change in a car, she becomes a wonderful, beautiful, attractive woman, who’s a radiant, irresistible presence. She doesn’t overdue the tough worker act, she doesn’t make Paula a loud, over-the-top woman (something that an actress of Melissa Leo’s caliber would have done with Paula). She just makes Paula the most natural person in the work and as a result, it’s just impossible not to fall in love with her.

        What I most admire about Debra here, is her ability to communicate Paula’s emotions with her wonderfully expressive. She gets dialogues and says her lines, but everything that’s important is written on her face. She has an effect on you with some very delicate and subtle impressions. For instance, in the ball scene where she’s doing nothing, really, except for flirting with Richard Gere. She makes her character so mysterious and wonderfully deep, it’s as if she wanted to seduce the audience as well (she succeeded, brilliantly).

        Debra’s chemistry with Richard Gere is pretty miraculous and that leads to the most fantastic scenes of Debra, like the ones in the motel room. Debra basically shines in these scenes: there’s something about them that still keeps resonating with me. I don’t know if I felt sympathy or even pity for Paula but I sure had some intense feelings about her.

        The highlight of her whole performance is her monologue about her real father and her (kind of) break-up with Richard Gere’s character. She’s just haunting in this scene, revealing the soul of this girl. Again, what’s important is really on her face and not in what she says.

        Many people ask the question: is she leading or supporting? Frankly, my answer is obviously leading. Despite the screenplay’s intentions, she’s the emotional center-point of this movie and she provides us with the most memorable moments of her so-so movie. I guess the only thing I could have against her is the fact that despite the wonderful, even haunting effect she had on me, she didn’t hit me really hard. But frankly, with this role, she did way more than it could be expected in this movie.

        All things considered, Debra Winger is incredibly great in An Officer and a Gentleman, giving a deeply layered, very emotional and haunting performance that didn’t cease to amaze me. She gets so much out of this seemingly one-dimensional character with the help of her wonderful, beautiful presence. She’s just wonderful all around.

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  4. Given her talent you’d think her filmography would be a lot stronger but it’s quite poor, really; very few of her films are likely to stand the test of time.

    Off-topic but why have you included Nicole Kidman in your poll of potential subjects? As of late she hasn’t been headlining big Hollywood movies but she’s still sought after and certainly qualifies as A-list: an actress with a lesser reputation would not be nominated for a film like ‘The Paperboy’.

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    • I think a lot of actresses would kill for Winger’s filmography. She hit a rough patch post Terms of Endearment. If she hadn’t been exiled/exiled herself, she could have a stunning filmography. But on the whole, I wouldn’t say her career is poor.

      Kidman is still considered A-list, but I’m not sure she really is. You kind of answered your own question there. She hasn’t been headlining big Hollywood movies. And she has even had some go straight to video.

      She’s far from washed up. But she’d definitely peaked.

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      • She was married to Tom Cruise. I never got a sincere vibe off her. I never really formed a strong opinion of her one way or another except that she was a presence on screen. Still is even if a lot of her movies are terrible. I’m sure I’ll form a stronger opinion of her whenever I get around to writing her up.

        To be honest, I had no idea Kidman had remarried. I wonder if this one was arranged too.

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    • Kidman is not on her A-game but she is coming back for it. There are good signs – she was brilliant in Rabbit Hole. And that Grace Monaco is an Oscar bait, the movie’s director was the 1 behind La vie en rose – the Piaff biopic that got Marion Cottillard her Oscar. Plus she also has “The Danish Girl” stuck in development hell, but if it got made properly it looks like it will be an Oscar bait too.

      Don’t count her out yet (as long as she doesn’t mess up her forehead too much) And her appeal is never about likability, it was her icy queen and because she is a brave performer who chose fearless material.

      In the end, she is always a talented character actress that thanks to her “marriage” failure got really lucky at the box office for a while without never being the main draw of her movie. Then she decides to chase the paycheck & the quality just sucks. Her new movie, Stoker, looks awesome btw.

      Oh, I like Forget Paris too – it has a bit of Woody Allen & When Harry met Sally influence in it. Very enjoyable, however the character happen to makeup then breakup then makeup again so many times that by the end their ultimate makeup doesn’f feel climatic enough. Also, Billy Crystal plays the same character in WHMS so it could be a turnoff 4 audience. I think I should track down the movie to see it again. And u forgot Diane Lane among Gere’s chemistry partners.

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      • I think you have summed up Kidman’s career pretty nicely. She’s not down and out like Kilmer or Young. And a return to respectability seems likely. She’s even considered by many to still be A-list, but I think that’s largely because there are so few actresses in contention for the A-list. She had a long run of critical and commercial disasters. I just watched Trespass the other day and if that isn’t rock bottom I don’t know what is!

        For Kidman, asking WTHH is less about her disappearing and more about her rise and fall. She was a Hollywood darling largely because of whatever arrangement she had with Cruise. Marriage/business deal, you decide. And for a while, she was the rare actor who was critically acclaimed with a good track record at the box office. But like you said, she started saying “yes” to big paychecks and all that went away. I find that to be a compelling narrative.

        It’s funny. WHMS is credited with reinventing the rom-com. And in a way, it did. But really, it was Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron shamelessly ripping off Woody Allen. Forget Paris mined the same territory. But it had two big obstacles. 1. Without Meg Ryan, Crystal isn’t much of a romantic lead. 2. People didn’t want to see what happens after the “happy ending”. I need to rewatch Forget Paris. I remember thinking it was okay and being surprised by how many people really disliked it.

        I also need to watch The Cotton Club. I have kind of avoided Richard Gere movies.

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    • I like Nicole Kidman in general tbh. I also kinda love underdog stories so I dfinitely root for her to comeback. And I agree about Billy, without Meg he will never be appealing or likable enough. I think yes, WHMS is definitely influenced by Woody but there are aspects unique too, mostly aspects coming from women’s views. (And sometimes it is considered “reinventing” simply because it made a shitload of money and made audiences pay more for future movies!) But without the storyline of between friends and lovers, there would be no romcom today I think. Tbh, that line alone is pretty much a classic.

      People also don’t like seeing what happens after the happy ending too unless it’s drama, I sadly think so. A movie I saw last year, 5-year engagement, was actually smart & warm and much better than the reviews I read. (I saw it because I like the 2 leads, Jason Segel & Emily Blunt)

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      • I was on the fence with Kidman until To Die For. That won me over. But I also kind of get the impression that in a lot of ways, she is the smart version of that character. She will do anything to climb that ladder. Even marry Tom Cruise.

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        • CrossCulturalist

          I read somewhere that Debra Winger also turned down Kidman’s role in To Die For, in addition to Silence of the Lambs and Thelma & Louise. By the way, I can see a younger Sean Young (or maybe Debra Winger) playing Faye Dunaway playing Joan Crawford.

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          • Just about everyone in Hollywood turned down Silence of the Lambs at some point. Jonathan Demme was desperate not to cast Jodie Foster for some reason. But most actresses were turned off by the violence – specifically the violence against women. For Thelma and Louise, they had to cast two strong female leads at a time when it was hard to cast even one. So once again, just about everyone was attached at some point. Not sure about To Die For, but I know a lot of actresses were considered.

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    • Pretty much everyone was considered for those roles at some point. On Silence of the Lambs, Demme was desperate to hire any body but Jodie Foster. So he saw everyone in town. With Thelma and Louise, they had to cast two lead actresses. So you can imagine what a scramble that was at a time when movies rarely starred women. I can definitely see Kidman being considered for Ghost. Especially since she starred in My Life a few years later. It seems likely she had made a connection during her Ghost audition.

      Kidman was an incredibly ambitious woman which probably lead her to Cruise in the first place. She was an up and coming actress from Australia who had made a bit of a splash in Dead Calm in 89. I can definitely see her being considered for a lot of roles in the early 90s.

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  5. When I was younger, I didn’t see the attraction. Watching her movies now, I have changed my mind. She’s a different kind of sexy.

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  6. Really? I think this woman is pretty cute.Photobucket

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  7. I think her strength was lighthearted rom=com. She and Redford played off each other very effectively in Legal Eagles, hit or no. Yes I went to see it in the theatre.

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  8. Another great WTHH post!! You forgot Diane Lane as one who gets along with Gere (who I do admire as an actor). Winger was very talented. I remember seeing Terms of Endearment at the movies; my girlfriend at the time dragged me to see it. I actually got into the movie; it was THAT good. But Winger’s character was so captivating.

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    • Gere has had a long career. I’m sure there are a lot of other actresses he has had good chemistry with. Eventually, I’ll write him up and I expect I will gain a new appreciation for him as an actor. Or maybe I’ll agree with Winger that he really is a brick wall. Time will tell.

      Terms of Endearment is just a great movie. James L Brooks is awesome.

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  9. Good write-up, as usual. It’s funny, but I remember really liking Cannery Row when I was a kid. That’s always the movie that I think of first whenever Debra Winger or Nick Nolte come up. I really need to watch it again and see how it holds up.

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  10. Just discovered this blog today. You answered a lot of questions for me. One I’ve been curious about is Robin Williams. He was HUGE for a while and then sort of faded away. I hear he’s got a TV pilot up at CBS. Obviously he hasn’t gone away completely, but this seems like a huge step down from what once was.

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    • http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/DarthWiki/FallenCreator

      In The Nineties, Robin Williams (having built himself up from being just a stand-up comedian / sitcom star) was one of the most beloved comedic actors. He was doing it all: Adult comedies, kids’ films, a few dramas here and there. And for one film in that last category, Good Will Hunting, he won an Oscar. And then he made Patch Adams, which wasn’t even a bad movie, but many people were turned off by the combination of overly-zany humor and saccharine drama, and many also believed that the other doctors in the film were right. From then on, many television shows viewed him as a kind of walking punchline rather than the jokester. People started to focus on his less-than-stellar career choices like RV, License To Wed, and Old Dogs while ignoring his better output such as House Of D, The Big White and World’s Greatest Dad (it doesn’t help that the former three are major studio films while the latter three are from independent studios). The exceptions are films like Insomnia & One Hour Photo, where he plays the villain.

      Williams has regained some measure of respect by returning to his roots with a number of well-recieved stand up specials.

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      • 10 Actors Who Are Nowhere Near As Great As They Used To Be:

        http://whatculture.com/film/10-actors-who-are-nowhere-near-as-great-as-they-used-to-be.php/7

        4. Robin Williams

        Robin Williams is a god. He is comedy royalty. He changed the face of comedy into something more than just pie-in the-face, although he was still good for a pie-in-the face laugh. Robin Williams, the comedian, is an icon.

        He also seems to have created the “comedy actors career trajectory path.” This path leads from struggling stand-up comedian to TV success to movie success to curious movie choices (usually heavy dramatic fare) to attempts to reclaim the funny but never rising again to the top, leaving said actor stuck in a purgatory of sorts between past comedy fame and drama. He suffered from audience and bipolar. He wanted to make movies that touched upon the human soul and condition and succeeded in tugging at the heartstrings in Mrs. Doubtfire, Awakenings and Patch Adams. Williams won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Good Will Hunting. However, we also wanted the explosive verbal diarrhea Robin Williams, as in Aladdin or Good Morning Vietnam. So he decided to provide us neither ever again.

        So what happened?

        The 2002 ‘Stalker Trilogy’. Although he received critic points for again stepping out of his acting zone, audiences were luke-warm to the lone killer in Insomnia, the weird Photo booth guy in One Hour Photo and murderous kid’s show host in Death to Smoochy. After 9/11, America needed a good laugh and their once go-to guy for laughter was coming off as a bit of a creepy perv.

        After that, nobody has ever looked at Robin Williams as the guy who once played a grown-up Peter Pan or shook the foundations of prep school establishment in Dead Poet’s Society. Now, he’s just the guy who plays an animated yet subdued Teddy Roosevelt in Night at The Museum and according to your parents was quite funny at one time.

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    • Williams is definitely coming soon. I don’t know when I’ll get to him, but it will most likely be sometime this year. Sooner rather than later I would guess.

      He’s still around. But to go from Good Will Hunting to Old Dogs and RV is crazy!

      Glad you enjoyed the Debra Winger article! Thanks for reading.

      Like

  11. After All These Years, Debra Winger Still Can’t Stand Shirley MacLaine’s Guts:

    http://defamer.com/5014822/after-all-these-years-debra-winger-still-cant-stand-shirley-maclaines-guts

    It’s been 25 years since Terms Of Endearment arrived in the multiplexes of America, turning virtually everyone who saw it into an emotional basketcase. And while the film swept most of the major awards at the 1984 Academy Awards, there was one integral member of the cast who left the L.A. County Music Center that night less than thrilled. That person was Debra Winger, who was none too pleased that her co-star and arch rival Shirley MacLaine took home the coveted Best Actress Award. Not only were the two on-set rivals (one potentially tall tale had Winger farting in MacLaine’s face), but MacLaine famously shouted “I deserve this!” when her name was called over Winger’s that night.

    Flash forward to today’s episode of The View, which featured an appearance from none other than Winger herself. Being the gossipy yentas that they are, The Ladies Of The View weren’t about to let an opportunity to grill Winger on one of Hollywood’s most famous rivalries pass them by. Well, you know the old saying that “Time heals all wounds”? Let’s just say that it’s not applicable in this case.

    When Joy raises the issues of Debra Winger’s notorious reputation in Hollywood, both Elisabeth and Sherri pile on in an attempt to get Debra to spill the beans about the legendarily cantankerous kook. But instead of taking the opportunity to be the bigger person and diffuse the situation by saying words to the effect of “what’s done is done”, Winger stood defiant by refusing to turn the other cheek. And proving that her case of sour grapes isn’t solely limited to her narrow Oscar loss, Winger almost let us in on the (seemingly not-so-pleasant) secret of what really turned little Troy Bishop Huckleberry Fox into a blubbering mess on set. While it sadly appears that we’ll never find out how many licks it took to get to the center of that Tootsie Pop, we can only speculate that it had something to do with threats of broken wind.

    Like

    • Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment:

      http://oscarnerd.blogspot.com/2011/05/debra-winger-in-terms-of-endearment.html

      Debra Winger received her second Best Actress nomination for playing Emma Horton, a woman having a very difficult life, an overbearing mother and an unfaithful husband in Terms of Endearment. In 1983, no one was stopping Shirley MacLaine from winning her overdue Oscar, not even her co-star, Debra Winger. But I think she got many votes, too and was second. I’m wondering if she had won had Shirley won earlier. I think she wouldn’t have as they probably would have picked Jane Alexander. Or not?

      I already expressed some of my feelings towards Terms of Endearment and I have to go on. I wouldn’t have given this movie that many Oscars. The Best Adapted Screenplay was not very worthy, either. I probably would have picked Educating Rita or The Dresser, probably. John Lithgow gave a very nice performance as the sympathetic guy who begins an affair with Emma, however, I don’t think that he was very worthy of his nomination.

      Debra Winger is a notoriously difficult actress. She doesn’t make very good relationships while working, in fact, most people really disliked her. However, when you get two gigantic egos together (Winger and MacLaine), the outcome will be either a disaster or a total triumph. Fortunately for both ladies (and us), the latter came true at the Oscars. They were both nominated and they both seemed to have fun over the past.

      Winger plays Emma Horton, who’s the most dramatic character of Terms of Endearment. She got everything that made Terms of Endearment a typical 80s weepie: children, marital problems, adultery and cancer. Yes, Winger got the huge dramatic role that all the young actresses want. Interesting enough, it was Sissy Spacek who was planned to play the role. I guess the outcome would have been much different then (and Jennifer Jones as Aurora, wow, it would have been quite a big movie).

      Debra Winger is a very interesting actress who can make roles like the one in An Officer and a Gentleman but Emma is a very different character. And I think she did justice with Emma: she took everything she got and gave a very proper and impressive performance. In the beginning, she looks a bit awkward but she really improves in time. Although the way she developed Emma could have been a bit slower but I think she was quite good.

      When she has scenes with Shirley MacLaine, it’s easy to see who’s the more talented actress of the two. It might be also the fact that Emma’s character is much less entertaining than Aurora but I wasn’t really, truly impressed by her. At least not constantly. Whenever you watch two performances in a movie and focus on them both, sometimes you just have to decide which one is the better. For me, it was Shirley. When they had their scenes together, I observed Shirley and not because I didn’t care about Winger or liked her less. It’s just that Winger’ character got a bit one-dimensional compared to Shirley’s.

      However, as I said her performance really improves a lot. The scenes where we see her as a struggling wife as quite touching and very great. You just can’t help it and just feel sorry for poor Emma. Winger showed quite well how Emma became tougher and stronger over the years. The way she realizes the truth about her husband is played very well by Winger.

      Also, her scenes after Emma realizes that she has cancer are exceptional, especially the one in New York, where she says her a big monologue to her friend. I think it’s quite probably the best moment of hers in the whole movie. And after that, her goodbye scene to her children comes. To be totally honest, that scene was a bit too much working for the tears. Yes, it’s a heart-wrenching and unforgettable moment and the climax of the movie but as a result, the rest of the movie pales in comparison with it.

      Still, I liked Winger as Emma. I may not be in awe of her as much as others, I can appreciate the merits of Winger’s work. Although the performance starts out a bit boring, it improves in time and it becomes a very interesting one that has a great effect on the viewer. It might be the fact that I don’t like this type of characters very much but I wasn’t that impressed. Still, something keeps resonating with me, so I will go with

      Without hesitation. Wow, deciding between her and Shirley will be tough.

      Like

    • re: Debra Winger Still Can’t Stand Shirley MacLaine’s Guts

      But what about the rest of her anatomy?

      Sorry, a cheap pun, but I couldn’t resist…maybe someone will make a movie about the making of that movie, a la “My Weekend With Marilyn.” It could be called “Hell is a Woman Named Debra” or “Debra & Shirley: It Was A Gas.”

      Like

  12. What ever happened to Debra Winger?

    http://filmsmol.wordpress.com/2008/08/04/what-ever-happened-to-debra-winger/

    Debra Winger was the must see star of the 80′s. She played Sissy opposite John Travolta in the hit Urban Cowboy ( 1980). As Sissy, she taught the world that riding a mechanical bull can be truly sexy. She went on to be nominated for two Academy Awards, one for An Officer and A Gentleman in 1982 and then for Terms of Endearment in 1983. Three hits back to back to back. This woman was supposed to bring greatness for the rest of her film career. Her reputation as a great talent, as well as her reputation as a difficult actress kept growing as her career hurdled on. She was known to throw tantrums on set, throw things, be uncooperative and just plain being a bitch. She infamously hit Shirley MacLaine on the set of Terms of Endearment, at least that’s what MacLaine wrote in her autobiography My Lucky Stars: A Hollywood Memoir. But according to Winger it was all good fun. She went on to decline many roles that could have won her a few Oscars. The movie Broadcast News was supposedly written just for Winger, but after looking as the script she walked away from the production. The role of Jain Craig was given to Holly Hunter, and it was the role that made her famous. Broadcast News very well may have gotten Winger that long anticipated Oscar. Another role she turned down was Dotty Hinson in A League of Their Own.

    She found love on the set of the film Wilder Napalm (1993) when she co-starred opposite Arliss Howard, who became her next husband. The film flopped but their marriage lasted. She got good reviews 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.

    At 40 I guess Winger felt that there were no good roles for her so she became a suburban wife taking care of her two young sons. 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 for 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 published a sort of memoir of her life called Undiscovered. This was promoted by news shows as a tell-all novel, but Debra shot that down right away during an interview on The View. I went out and bought the memoir the first day it was out in the book stores and I was pleasantly surprised. Actually, I loved it! One thing that repeats its self in the book is that she loved the work, but hated the business.

    So, we might see Debra break back into film in the coming years. There is a movie coming out this year called Rachel Getting Married, where she plays the mother of a drug addict, and it will give a chance to see is Debra still has it!

    But there is no denying it, Debra Winger is one of the greatest actresses of our time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Movies so bad or controversial that they largely ended genuinely thriving acting careers:

      http://www.datalounge.com/cgi-bin/iowa/ajax.html?t=9812306#page:showThread,9812306,11

      Sure, Debra Winger voluntarily left the business. What actually killed her career was the flop “Mike’s Murder”. She’d had several monster hits and won the respect of the critics, but she was a pain in the ass to work with and at the time there were drug rumors. Hollywood can be very unforgiving to women who are pains in the ass, and after one notorious flop she was no longer in demand.

      by: Anonymous reply 214 11/11/2010 @ 09:35PM

      Like

      • Tell us stories of her being evil and nasty to people!!!!

        http://www.datalounge.com/cgi-bin/iowa/ajax.html?t=12782238#page:showThread,12782238

        I used to wait on her during and after her marriage to Timothy Hutton. She was always unpleasant. Sometimes it was mild, but often times not mild. She seemed to have trouble interacting with anyone. Grim-faced, hostile, and mildly threatening, all while being ugly. What a catch!

        by: Anonymous reply 14 05/17/2013 @ 01:44PM

        She should have had Streep’s career. I don’t think she was suited for or wanted that sort of big level stardom.

        by: Anonymous reply 18 05/17/2013 @ 03:23PM

        She was too honest and cray-cray to play the Hollywood game.

        by: Anonymous reply 19 05/17/2013 @ 03:28PM

        Loved her. She was one of the most natural actresses ever. The Jeff Bridges kind of relaxed. Too bad she couldn’t work within the system.

        by: Anonymous reply 32 05/17/2013 @ 09:39PM

        “I really like her in “Urban Cowboy” – “I like my tuna salad with onion, not apples and pecans! [spits out on fork]”

        Acually she likes her tuna salad with apples and pecans, NOT onions.

        It’s hard to believe, looking at her now, that she was considered quite a hot piece at one time. But even back then she was an acquired taste. I can’t remember which movie it was (it was either Urban Cowboy or An Officer and A Gentleman), but the director of the film was hesitant to cast her because he didn’t think it was plausible that any guy would want to f*** her.

        She was heavily into coke during her heyday, which partially accounted for her crazy behavior. She also seemed to have some kind of mental illness. She always seems hostile. On “Inside the Actor’s Studio” she was asked some innocuous question and she snapped “I refuse to answer that.” She’s definitely not easy to get along with.

        by: Anonymous reply 33 05/17/2013 @ 09:55PM

        Debra Winger was a very seventies-style actress. It was too bad her career was in the eighties.

        by: Anonymous reply 36 05/17/2013 @ 10:03PM

        Winger was white hot then white cold. I don’t think she could have sustained very long without trying. Burned a lot of bridges. Click click click is so Hepburn by the way. Public hated her for long stretches.

        by: Anonymous reply 42 05/18/2013 @ 01:31AM

        Holly Hunter stole her career.

        Broadcast News, Roe V Wade and The Piano were all roles with Winger in mind.

        Unfortunately she turned them all down.

        by: Anonymous reply 52 05/18/2013 @ 03:17PM

        Winger’s interview at [R55] is completely ridiculous: first she’s saying they didn’t really fight all that much and blew it out of proportion to get publicity, and then she coyly admits they physically fought with one another on the set, as if that’s a normal and healthy thing for two lead actors on a movie set to do.

        I’ve always thought she’s mentally ill, and this just confirms that suspicion. She’s fundamentally a dishonest woman. I have always thought she’s a very good actress, but I think whatever difficulties she’s had in her career have all been of her own making.

        by: Anonymous reply 65 05/18/2013 @ 04:24PM

        She had terrible taste in material. She probably had her reasons but the scripts she chose to do really sank her career. Everybody Wins? A Dangerous Woman?

        Though I have to say one of favorite performances of hers is Cannery Row.

        by: Anonymous reply 66 05/18/2013 @ 04:38PM

        Debra Winger was great for a few years but then left and/or was not asked to be in major films anymore. I don’t think she ever had the range or talent that people are imagining here.

        by: Anonymous reply 77 05/18/2013 @ 05:40PM

        Debra Winger is sh** actress. That’s why she doesn’t work anymore. Getting nominated for awards (ESPECIALLY IN THE 80’s) is attributed to highly skilled publicists!

        And for stories. I waited on her, too. Bossy demanding cold bitch.

        by: Anonymous reply 78 05/18/2013 @ 05:41PM

        Actually, I think Winger could hold her own alongside Streep. Look what she did with what could have easily been a one note, one dimensional role in Officer and a Gentleman. Yet, she turned it into a an Oscar nominated performance on the level of something you’d see in a Truffaut movie.

        You think Streep could pull off that Mechanical bull ride in Urban Cowboy?

        by: Anonymous reply 82 05/18/2013 @ 06:03PM

        Thank you everyone for chiming in on Debra Winger, good or bad. I adore her, and do agree that she could have done more, but burned too many bridges.

        I don’t really see her in the Streep conversation. They are just too different. Debra was smoldering and earthy and messy, whereas Streep is much more cultured and privileged, no matter the role. Just for a quick example: Debra as Shirley’s daughter in Terms of Endearment vs. Meryl as Shirley’s daughter in Postcards.

        They were of course peers to some extent, but in my limited knowledge, I feel that Debra was far more focused on the “art” and integrity of the overall film, whatever that meant to her.

        Her entire young persona, when you really build your career and reputation, was too volatile to sustain any of her early success. But I sure wish she had been able to handle that life because I think her talent was very real.

        by: Anonymous reply 89 05/18/2013 @ 06:51PM

        Yeah, comparing Debra Winger and Meryl Streep is kind of bullsh**. Meryl Streep is a character actress, whereas Debra Winger is more of a personality star. And as with most personality stars, once it came out that her real life “personality” was of an unlikable bitch, her career tanked.

        by: Anonymous reply 96 05/18/2013 @ 08:39PM

        Her fall was really quick too, I recall, two Oscar nods and box office too and then suddenly she was in a Steve Martin movie and her face was postage stamp sized on the poster. That’s when you know it’s over. She did come back for one more Oscar nod for “Shadowlands”… and then took off for a decade, it seemed.

        by: Anonymous reply 107 05/19/2013 @ 12:21AM

        I don’t think I saw a complete Debra Winger movie aside from Rachel Getting Married (fell asleep early on Officer & Gentleman or maybe I was just too stoned to remember it). However her couple of scenes in Rachel Getting Married convinced me all the accolades were justified. She’s nothing short of brilliant, especially in the goodbye scene where Anne Hathaway is trying desperately to reach out to her and Winger carefully talks around her. Watched that scene dozens of time and still amazed at all the layers she manages to convey.

        by: Anonymous reply 121 05/19/2013 @ 07:49AM

        [R134], I said that in response to the comparison to Streep. Like all actors, Winger did some awful roles, absolutely.

        I recall reading somewhere, she was essentially “forced” into Legal Eagles by her agency.

        As many have said, she definitely burned bridges. Perhaps this role was what was available to her if she was going to work; perhaps if she coveted a role, Legal Eagles was the price. Not that uncommon.

        Also, I didn’t want to suggest everything she ever did was for the art. Most every artist does things that sounded better at the time or were presented as one thing while turning out quite differently or just for the money. Who knows?

        We do know she was volatile and ruined any chance she had at a true star career even if she had the talent, which is another topic and not everyone would agree she had such potential.

        But I do see her as having loftier ideals in her overall acting choices than Streep, however reality-based they were or were not. In my opinion, she never appeared as grounded and able to see her talent through. And that was the topic I was trying to address.

        by: Anonymous reply 138 05/20/2013 @ 11:22PM

        Like

  13. Former Chargers & Pats safety Rodney Harrison once described former teammate Ryan Leaf as “a nightmare you
    couldn’t even imagine”,adding that he went through another year like that,he might’ve retire………bet you most
    filmmakers & execs feel the same way about Winger,only she hasn’t ended up in prison like Leaf has……….yet!!!

    Like

    • In fairness, there are some former collaborators who speak very highly of Winger. It just depends what kind of working relationship you’re able to establish. And also, whether or not she was having substance abuse issues at the time.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Wow. Baldwin asked her some tough questions. He talked about the career she could have had.

      Like

      • I see a “pattern” in WTHHT’s —

        turkey movies + unpleasant personality = aborted career

        Sandra Bullock, for one, has been in LOTS of turkeys — she’s even admitted that a couple of the sequels she’s done were not good. BUT dog-gone it, PEOPLE LIKE HER. She seems like a pleasant person, she doesn’t pull any “star shite” on-set like SOME folk listed herein, etc. It seems Hollyweird will cut you SOME (not a lot, but some) slack if you’re not a “difficult” personality, but if you’re “difficult” AND star in lots of under-performing or bomb movies, to quote Archie Bunker, “Good night, nurse!”

        Go on, ask Debra W, Nyquil Heigl, Moody Mike Myers, Swingin’ Stevie Seagal, etc.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Personally I adore her as a actor and as a person. I think we all have some kind of behavior problem. Regardless I give her 5 stars. Sorry, the rest can’t except this kind of behavior. Its ridiculous when you people comment on debra because she has a behavior problem who doesn’t. I will call anybody a lair. we may not no your weakness but Nobody is the perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Debra was at last night’s CDG awards which celebrates the best in costume design……check
    Wireimage of Getty Images for shots!!!!

    Like

  16. I LOVE YOU DEBRA, U WON ME OVER WITH URBAN COWBOY AND CEMENTED IT WITH OFFICER! BEAUTIFUL, TALENTED, NOT AFRAID TO SPEAK UR MIND…I WISH U ONLY HAPPINESS

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Let’s bid Deb a happy 59th today!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. i think she do well in sitcom family comedy

    Like

  19. I love you Debra..you have always unabashedly spoken your mind…kudos to you….I guess I can relate…I speak my mind…sometimes I don’t have a filter..but fortunately for me I don’t have to do it with the world watching…may Please Don’t let Me Be Misunderstood be our theme song…you are an awesome talent…and I have enjoyed EVERYTHING I have had the pleasure of seeing you in…good or bad…these movies shine because of your talent….and that is why I remember each and every one of them…yes…I automatically think of Sean Young when Debra’s name is mentioned…women who have spoken their minds in Hollywood to their detriment…Searching For Debra Winger is up there with my fave doco’s…may your star continue to shine brightly…and may we be entertained by your wonderful talent…God bless you Debra…and thanks for the memories….cheers

    Like

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