For most of the 2000s, fans wondered where exactly Winona Ryder went. Following her 2001 shoplifting scandal, Winona Ryder was ousted from Hollywood for the better part of a decade. It was a strange fall from grace for the once-ubiquitous star.
Ryder was on top of the world in the late '80s and early '90s. As a young actor, she had starred in soon-to-be-classics like Beetlejuice, Heathers, and Edward Scissorhands. Her cool girl vibe and fascinatingly off-kilter performances made her a pop culture icon. Parlaying her early fame into bigger roles, Ryder worked with Martin Scorsese in The Age of Innocence and Woody Allen in Celebrity. She starred in the indie darling Reality Bites and with Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted, and earned a few Oscar nominations too. She seemed poised for even bigger and better things - so the Winona Ryder shoplifting scandal and the ensuing fallout was perplexing to fans of the immensely talented performer.
Thankfully, Ryder has now returned to the spotlight in all her glory on Netflix’s Stranger Things. But her time away from Hollywood - whether from personal choice or supposedly tarnished reputation - shows just how harshly celebrities, particularly female ones, are judged by the public.
Ryder was detained on December 12, 2001. She was accused of shoplifting $5,560 in merchandise from Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills. The items included a cashmere Marc Jacobs sweater worth $760, hair accessories, and several pairs of socks.
The public was confused. Why was Ryder, who had been a legitimate Hollywood star for years, taking items she could supposedly afford?
This incident may not have been the first time Ryder shoplifted. According to the prosecutor, Ryder shoplifted so frequently that Saks felt they finally had to put a stop to it.
As for Ryder's take on it, she told Porter magazine, "Psychologically, I must have been at a place where I just wanted to stop. I won’t get into what happened, but it wasn’t what people think."
Ryder has made no statement on this, but psychologists have suggested she didn’t even intend to wear the clothes she took. Court transcripts suggested she was a habitual shoplifter, and with her history of anxiety and depression, Ryder fit the traditional profile of a kleptomaniac. Kleptomaniacs don’t take for the items themselves, but for the rush.
As Dr. Marcus Goldman, author of Kleptomania: The Compulsion to Steal – What Can Be Done? explains:
If you look at what Ryder was doing to those clothes - cutting holes in them to get the tags off - do you think she was going to wear them? They probably would have ended up in a heap in her closet.
Beverly Hills Police Lt. Gary Gilmond described Ryder as “polite and cooperative” after her detainment. Her lawyer then posted the $20,000 bail. During the time Ryder was detained, however, Demerol, Percocet, and Vicodin were all found in her belongings. Ryder didn't have a prescription for these medications, and the media began reporting that she was having a meltdown.
Of the incident, Ryder told Interview magazine, “That thing that happened, I was starting to have some trouble before that.”
Whatever her struggles, she was calm and composed during the trial - hardly the wild woman she was painted as in the papers.