Following her breakthrough in 1988's Beetlejuice, Winona Ryder emerged as one of the most celebrated actresses of her generation. Adept at playing characters ranging from depressed, angst-ridden goths to Edith Wharton debutantes, the saucer-eyed, porcelain-skinned Ryder has attained critical respect in addition to widespread popularity.
Ryder was born in and named after the city of Winona, MN, on October 29, 1971. The daughter of communal hippies and the goddaughter of LSD guru Timothy Leary, she grew up on a commune in Northern California. Ryder's family moved to Petaluma when she was ten; following regular abuse from her classmates, who targeted her for her unconventional, androgynous appearance (she was once jumped by a group of boys who had mistaken her for a gay boy), she was home schooled. At the age of 11, she joined the American Conservatory Theatre, and was soon trying out for movie roles. An audition for the part of Jon Voight's daughter in Desert Bloom failed to yield a role but did land the actress an agent, and at the age of 14, Ryder -- who had changed her last name from Horowitz -- made her film debut in Lucas (1986).