Debra Winger

Debra Winger
Debra Winger

Debra Winger in 2009
Born Mary Debra Winger
May 16, 1955 (1955-05-16) (age 56)
Cleveland Heights, Ohio, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1976–present
Spouse Timothy Hutton (1986–1990)
Arliss Howard (1996–present)

Mary Debra Winger (born May 16, 1955) is an American actress. A three-time Oscar nominee, she received awards for acting in Terms of Endearment, for which she won the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress in 1983, and in A Dangerous Woman, for which she won the Tokyo International Film Festival Award for Best Actress in 1993.


Early years

Winger was born as Mary Debra Winger in Cleveland Heights, Ohio into an Orthodox Jewish family, to Robert Winger, a meat packer, and Ruth (née Felder), an office manager.[1][2][3][4] She has stated publicly and with amusement that the Internet has a growing "snowball" of claims that she had been part of a kibbutz in Israel, whereas she was merely on a typical Israeli youth program that visited the kibbutz.[5] After returning to the United States, she was involved in a car accident and suffered a cerebral hemorrhage as a result, she was left partially paralyzed and blind for ten months, although she was initially told that she would never see again. With time on her hands to think about her life, she decided that, if she recovered, she would move to California and become an actress.[6] She later recovered.



Winger's first acting role was as "Debbie" in the 1976 sexploitation film Slumber Party '57.[7] Her next role was as Diana Prince's younger sister Drusilla (Wonder Girl) on the TV show, Wonder Woman.

Her first starring role was in Thank God It's Friday, followed by her role of a cowgirl in Urban Cowboy in 1980 with John Travolta, for which she received a BAFTA nomination. In 1982 she co-starred with Nick Nolte in Cannery Row and with Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman, for which she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress twice more: for Terms of Endearment in 1983 and for Shadowlands in 1993 for which she also received her second BAFTA nomination. Her performance in A Dangerous Woman earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress.[8]

Over the years Winger acquired a reputation for being outspoken and sometimes difficult to work with.[9][10][11] She has expressed her dislike of An Officer and a Gentleman, for which she refused to do any publicity,[11] and several other of her films, and has been dismissive of some of her co-stars and directors. Commenting on her past attitudes, Winger said in 2009, "Most bad behaviour comes from insecurity. Even though I loved what I was doing, I didn't always know I could pull it off. (...) I took [my insecurities out] on everybody. But in my defense, I never fought about the size of my trailer or things like that; it was always about the work".[12]

Winger was cast in the lead role in A League of their Own but dropped out and was replaced by Geena Davis. It was later reported that the actress refused to work work with singer/actress Madonna as the main reason that she choose to leave the film.

In 1995 Winger decided to take a hiatus from acting. In 2002 she 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. People said, "We miss you so much." But in the last six years, tell me a film that I should have been in. The few I can think of, the actress was so perfect".[13] After making Forget Paris in 1995 she was absent from the screen for six years before returning in 2001 with Big Bad Love.

From November 1999 to January 2000 Winger had the female lead in the American Repertory Theater's production of Anton Chekhov's play Ivanov.[14]

In 2001 a critically acclaimed documentary film titled Searching for Debra Winger was made by Rosanna Arquette and released in 2002 after Winger returned to film acting. Other films included Legal Eagles, Made in Heaven, Everybody Wins, The Sheltering Sky, Leap of Faith, Black Widow, Betrayed, Wilder Napalm, A Dangerous Woman and Sometimes in April. She earned an Emmy Award nomination for her title role in the television film Dawn Anna in 2005, directed by her second husband, Arliss Howard.

In 2008 she got positive reviews as Anne Hathaway's estranged mother in Rachel Getting Married.[15]

In 2010 she moved into television, making a guest appearance as a high school principal in an episode of Law & Order.[16] That Fall she joined the cast of HBO's In Treatment as one of the three patients featured in the third season.[17]

Other pursuits

During her hiatus from the film industry, Winger spent a semester as a teaching fellow at Harvard University.

In 1995 Winger performed in The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True a musical performance of the popular story at Lincoln Center to benefit the Children's Defense Fund. The performance was originally broadcast on Turner Network Television (TNT), and issued on CD and video in 1996.

In 2008 Winger wrote a book based on her personal recollections titled Undiscovered.[18]

She has shown her support for reconciliation between Arabs and Jews in Israel by visiting the bilingual Hand in Hand schools (Galilee Jewish-Arab School, Gesher al HaWadi School) where, in 2008, she stated she would "dedicate the next bit of my life to these schools".[19]

Winger has also been a vocal opponent of the arrest and prosecution of director Roman Polanski for raping a 13-year-old girl in the 1970s, accusing Switzerland's government of "philistine collusion" for arresting him.[20]

Personal life

From 1986 to 1990 she was married to actor Timothy Hutton with whom she had a son, Noah Hutton, a documentary filmmaker born in 1987. They divorced three years later.[21][22]

In 1996 she married actor/director Arliss Howard, whom she met on the set of the film Wilder Napalm. Their son, Gideon Babe Ruth Howard (known as Babe), was born in 1997. She is stepmother to Sam Howard.[21][22]


Year Title Role Notes
1976 Slumber Party '57 Debbie
1976-77 Wonder Woman Drusilla (Wonder Girl) (3 episodes)
1978 Thank God It's Friday Jennifer
1979 French Postcards Melanie
1980 Urban Cowboy Sissy Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Newcomer
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture
1982 Cannery Row Suzy DeSoto
1982 An Officer and a Gentleman Paula Pokrifki Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
1983 Terms of Endearment Emma Horton National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
1984 Mike's Murder Betty Parrish
1986 Legal Eagles Laura J. Kelly
1987 Black Widow Alexandra 'Alex' Barnes
1987 Made in Heaven Emmett Humbird (uncredited)
1988 Betrayed Catherine Weaver
1990 Everybody Wins Angela Crispini
1990 The Sheltering Sky Kit Moresby
1992 Leap of Faith Jane Larson
1993 Wilder Napalm Vida Foudroyant
1993 Shadowlands Joy Gresham Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actress
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
1993 A Dangerous Woman Martha Horgan Tokyo International Film Festival Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama
1995 Forget Paris Ellen Andrews Gordon
2001 Big Bad Love Marilyn
2003 Radio Linda
2004 Eulogy Alice Collins
2005 Sometimes in April Prudence Bushnell
2005 Dawn Anna Dawn Anna Townsend Nominated — Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Miniseries or a Movie
2008 Rachel Getting Married Abby Nominated — Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Cast
Nominated — Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Cast
Nominated — Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Female
2010 Law & Order Mrs. Woodside ep. 20.14 "Boy on Fire"


  1. ^ "Debra Winger Biography". filmreference. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  2. ^ Jan Hoffman (9 January 1994). "FILM; Debra Winger: Caught on a Winter Afternoon". The New York Times: p. 211. Retrieved 2009-12-27. 
  3. ^ Adam Dickter (9 July 2008). "Searching For Debra Winger? So's She". The Jewish Week. Retrieved 2009-12-27. [dead link]
  4. ^ Naomi Pfefferman (March 7, 2002). "'Big Bad' Debra". The Jewish Journal. Retrieved 2009-12-27. 
  5. ^ Leonard Lopate Show radio interview on 6/10/08
  6. ^ Farber, Stephen (1986-07-06). "Where There's Smoke, There's A Fiery Actress Named Debra Winger". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Debra Winger bio". American Repertory Theater. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  9. ^ Debra Winger : Dangerous Woman, Time, article by Richard Corliss and Elizabeth L. Bland, January 24, 1994
  10. ^ Debra Winger: a star is re-born, Daily Telegraph, 19 december 2008
  11. ^ a b WHERE THERE'S SMOKE, THERE'S A FIERY ACTRESS NAMED DEBRA WINGER, The New York Times, article by Stephen Farber, July 6, 1986
  12. ^ Back where she belongs: How Officer and A Gentleman star Debra Winger returned to the silver screen, The Daily Mail, 16 January 2009
  13. ^ Does Debra Winger Still Have Legs?, New York, article by Holly Millea, 25 February 2002
  14. ^ "Ivanov". Experience the A.R.T.. American Repertory Theater. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  15. ^ Scott, A. O. (2008-10-03). "Out of Rehab, Wreaking Havoc". The New York Times. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Fretts, Bruce (22 October 2010). "Cheers & Jeers: Debra Winger Gets the VIP Treatment". http://www.tvguide.cBruceom/News/Cheers-Jeers-Debra-1024628.aspx. Retrieved 29 October 2010. 
  18. ^ Debra Winger, Actor—Blue Flower Arts: An Agency Representing Poets, Authors and Speakers
  19. ^ Kupfer, Ruta (2008-03-28). "Weighing their words with care". Ha'aretz (reprinted in Hand In Hand: Learning Together Living Together). Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  20. ^ "Hollywood Left Bands Together to Fight Polanski Arrest". Fox News. 2009-09-29. 
  21. ^ a b "The interview: Debra Winger", by Rachel Cooke, The Guardian, column "The Observer", Sunday 28 December 2008. Retrieved June 17, 2010.
  22. ^ a b "Debra Winger: The return of a class act", Gaynor Flynn, The Independent, Friday, 24 October 2008. Retrieved June 17, 2010.

External links

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  • Debra Winger — (16 de mayo de 1955) es una actriz estadounidense. Nació en Cleveland Heights, en el estado de Ohio con el nombre Mary Debra Winger. Su padre era distribuidor de productos cárnicos. A los 16 años abandonó el colegio y se fue a Israel, donde vivió …   Enciclopedia Universal

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  • WINGER, DEBRA — (1955– ), U.S. film actress. Born in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Winger spent two years of her youth in Israel (where she served for three months in the army and worked on a kibbutz). She returned to the U.S. and first came to serious notice as John …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Debra — is a variant spelling of the feminine given name Deborah. Debra may refer to: Contents 1 People 2 Fictional characters 3 Places 4 Other uses …   Wikipedia

  • Debra — ist ein weiblicher Vorname. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Herkunft und Bedeutung 2 Namensträgerinnen 3 Sonstiges 4 Einzelnachweise …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Winger — can refer to:*Winger (sport) the sports position *Winger (band) a rock band ** Winger (album) the band Winger s debut album *Winger, Minnesota the U.S. town *Debra Winger an American actress …   Wikipedia

  • Debra — englische Kurzform von → Debora (Bedeutung: Biene). Namensträgerin: Debra Winger, US amerikanische Schauspielerin …   Deutsch namen

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