Winona Ryder Opens Up About Experiences with Hollywood Anti-Semitism

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Actress Winona Ryder attends the Premiere of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” at Mack Sennett Studios on July 11, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images via JTA.org)

By Marcy Oster

Actress Winona Ryder said she was passed over for a movie role because the studio head thought she looked “too Jewish” and Mel Gibson once asked her if she was an “oven dodger.”

Ryder talked about her experiences with anti-Semitism in Hollywood as part of wide-ranging interview published in the London-based Sunday Times.


“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,” Ryder told newspaper.

The incident with Gibson, at a party in 1995, was first reported in an interview in GQ in 2010. Ryder said that when something came up in the conversation about Jews, the actor-director said, ‘You’re not an oven dodger, are you?’” – a reference to the ovens that creamated the bodies of inmates in Nazi extermination camps. She added that Gibson later tried to apologize for the remark.

Ryder was born Winona Laura Horowitz in Winona, Minnesota.

Speaking of her Judaism, Ryder said that she is “Not religious, but I do identify. 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.”

She also said: “There are times when people have said, ‘Wait, you’re Jewish? But you’re so pretty!’”

Ryder recently appeared in the HBO miniseries “The Plot Against America” based on the novel by Philip Roth.

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