Few cinematic moments are as enchanting and iconic as when Richard Gere carries Debra Winger out of her factory job in “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982). It was a pinnacle for Winger as a leading lady in ’80s Hollywood. Yet, both on and off the screen, she has always avoided being pigeonholed or typecast.
Throughout the years, Debra Winger has frequently stepped away from the Hollywood limelight to live life on her own terms. Despite her numerous legendary performances, she still considers herself an outsider to the movie industry. The now 67-year-old isn’t afraid to denounce the pitfalls and inequities of the notoriously unpredictable, superficial, and sexist business. While she famously turned her back on mainstream films, she has since returned to the big screen, albeit more selectively.
Debra Winger – A True Legend
Although Winger took a break from Hollywood filmmaking in the late ’90s, she remained active in the arts. She traded in the traditional soundstage for the theater stage, showcasing her acting prowess in several American Repertory Theater productions, such as “How I Learn To Drive” and “Ivanov.” In addition to her theatrical pursuits, Winger also ventured into academia by serving as a teaching fellow for Harvard University’s esteemed General Education 105 course, “The Literature of Social Reflection,” taking advantage of her already established presence in the area.
Debra Winger has been married twice, first to actor Timothy Hutton for four years, during which time they had a son, Emmanuel, and second to actor/director Arliss Howard in 1996. Today, at 67, Winger is as stunning as ever, as evidenced by her Instagram posts showing off her natural wavy gray hair after previously sporting brown locks.
The Life of Debra Winger
Debra Winger was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but relocated with her family to California when she was six. After completing high school, she traveled to Israel, where she worked as a kibbutz and served in the Israeli army for three months. She returned to the US in the early ’70s to attend college. While working at a local amusement park, Winger was involved in a severe accident that left her in a coma. While recovering, she decided to pursue acting.
Winger started her career in commercials before landing the role of Drusilla, Wonder Woman’s younger sister, in the popular TV series. This exposure led to film roles. After gaining experience in minor parts, she beat out 200 other hopefuls to secure the leading role opposite John Travolta in “Urban Cowboy” (1980). The film was a triumph, propelling Winger into Hollywood’s mainstream. She proved her talent by earning back-to-back Oscar nominations for her performances in “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982) and “Terms of Endearment” (1983). However, these successful years were followed by a ten-year dry spell. Debra Winger struggled with a series of failed projects.
Winger’s More Recent Work
In 2008, Winger released “Undiscovered,” a memoir of short chapters and poems about her life as a mother, daughter, and actress. She returned to acting in 2010 with a recurring role on the TV series “In Treatment,” followed by a part in the 2012 film “Lola Versus.” She then starred in the 2016 Netflix series “The Ranch” and the romantic drama “The Lovers” (2017) with Tracy Letts. In 2020, she appeared in the con artist drama “Kajillionaire.”
For decades, Debra Winger has been a vocal advocate for gender equality in the entertainment industry. Her refusal to conform to Hollywood’s gendered behavior expectations led some to label her as “difficult.” However, Winger recognized the double standard and misogynistic attitudes that have persisted throughout her career, telling the Los Angeles Times, “I spoke my mind and it wasn’t gender correct.” Despite her success, Winger has been a vocal critic of the industry’s lack of diverse and interesting roles for women in film, telling The Guardian that “Roles for women. There aren’t any. They’ve been saying that since the 1920s, and it’s true.”