Debra Winger

Debra Winger

May. 16th, 1955
Born in
Cleveland Heights, Ohio, USA
5' 4"

Debra Winger's Main TV Roles

Show Character(s)
Wonder Woman TV Show
Wonder Woman
In Treatment TV Show
In Treatment
The Ranch TV Show
The Ranch
Szysznyk TV Show

Main Movie Roles

Guest TV Roles

[none found]


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 children's 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 and went temporarily blind for several months. She was in the hospital when she vowed to 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" (1974) {Task Force: Cop Killer: Part 1 (#2.23)} and "Wonder Woman" (1976) where she played Lynda Carter's little sister, Wonder Girl. She also made her feature film debut in the embarrassing soft-core porn film Slumber Party '57 (1976). (Years later on "Inside the Actors Studio" (1994), host James Lipton asked her to name her first film, and she refused to answer him.) 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), almost every young 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 with director Taylor Hackford.

Debra's 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 career lost its heat. 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 big-budget comedy Legal Eagles (1986), but she disliked the film so much that she publicly stated that the director, Ivan Reitman, was one of the two worst directors she worked with, the other director being Taylor Hackford (An Officer and a Gentleman (1982)). 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, 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 fleeting cameo by Hutton. She separated from Hutton in 1988 and they divorced in 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 (I) 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, Debra felt that there were no good roles for her and she concentrated on motherhood by 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 sexism and 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. In 2008, she wrote a book based on her personal recollections titled "Undiscovered." And she followed that up by winning rave reviews as Anne Hathaway (I)'s mother in Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married (2008), which has already generated Oscar talk for the actress. Nobody can deny that Debra Winger is one of the best American actresses ever. Her fans hope that Hollywood will finally reward her talent with a long-overdue Academy Award.

  • Sister-in-law of actor/writer 'Jim Howard (I)' (qv).
  • Son, Emmanuel Noah Hutton ('Noah Hutton' (qv))(born April 29, 1987) with 'Timothy Hutton' (qv).
  • She became notorious for turning down worthy roles in many popular films, such as 'Jodie Foster' (qv)'s roles in _Taxi Driver (1976)_ (qv), _The Accused (1988)_ (qv) and _The Silence of the Lambs (1991)_ (qv), 'Brooke Shields' (qv)' roles in _Pretty Baby (1978)_ (qv) and _The Blue Lagoon (1980)_ (qv), 'Daryl Hannah' (qv)'s role in _Splash (1984)_ (qv), 'Linda Hamilton (I)' (qv)'s role in _The Terminator (1984)_ (qv), 'Kathleen Turner (I)' (qv)'s role in _Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)_ (qv), 'Susan Sarandon' (qv)'s role in _Bull Durham (1988)_ (qv), 'Michelle Pfeiffer' (qv)'s role in _The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)_ (qv), 'Jessica Lange' (qv)'s role in _Music Box (1989)_ (qv), 'Julia Roberts (I)' (qv)' role in _Pretty Woman (1990)_ (qv), 'Demi Moore' (qv)'s role in _Ghost (1990)_ (qv), 'Geena Davis' (qv)' roles in _Thelma & Louise (1991)_ (qv) _A League of Their Own (1992)_ (qv), 'Sharon Stone (I)' (qv)'s role in _Basic Instinct (1992)_ (qv), 'Meg Ryan (I)' (qv)'s role in _Sleepless in Seattle (1993)_ (qv), 'Sandra Bullock' (qv)'s role in _Speed (1994/I)_ (qv) and 'Nicole Kidman' (qv)'s role in _To Die For (1995)_ (qv).
  • In 1995 she appeared in London, Washington, and New York with both the London Symphony and the New World Symphony under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas, performing his composition based on the life of Anne Frank.
  • Daughter of a meat-packer
  • Measurements: 34B-23-34 (Source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine)
  • Didn't like working with 'Lynda Carter' (qv) on _"Wonder Woman" (1976)_ (qv) but Lynda said that they didn't have any problems and was like a big sister to her.
  • Born at 5:15pm-EDT

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