Strange Things star Winona Ryder has opened up about her experiences with anti-semitism in the film industry, claiming she was once overlooked for a role because the producer said she looked “too Jewish.”
Ryder made the comments in an interview with The Sunday Times, where she opened up about her Jewish heritage and her family’s experience of the Holocaust. “[I am] not religious, but I do identify,” she said of her Jewish heritage. “It’s a hard thing for me to talk about because I had family who died in the camps, so I’ve always been fascinated with that time.”
The 49-year-old was then asked whether she had ever been the victim of antisemitism.
“I have… in interesting ways. There are times when people have said, ‘Wait, you’re Jewish? But you’re so pretty!” the Beetle Juice star said. “There was a movie that I was up for a long time ago, it was a period piece, and the studio head, who was Jewish, said I looked ‘too Jewish’ to be in a blue-blooded family.”
The actress went on to make an allegation about filmmaker Mel Gibson making both anti-semitic and homophobic remarks.
“We were at a crowded party with one of my good friends, and Mel Gibson was smoking a cigar, and we’re all talking and he said to my friend, who’s gay, ‘Oh wait, am I gonna get AIDS?’” she explained. “And then something came up about Jews, and he said, ‘You’re not an oven dodger, are you?'”
As well as her involvement in the hit Netflix series Stranger Things, Ryder recently starred in the HBO miniseries, The Plot Against America, an alternate history drama that tells the story of an anti-semitic populist and his rise to power. In March, she described the series as “incredibly timely” given the Trump presidency.
“Obviously a lot has been weighing on all of our minds. The whole fear of ‘the other’ in the eyes of fascism, what’s happening at the border, all of that is so outrageous and I think the last few years has been such a mind-boggling like nightmare in so many ways,” Ryder said at the time. “When I think about this project, it makes me want to speak out and do whatever I can and the way to do that right now is to vote.”