Debra Winger

Debra Winger


5/16/1955, Cleveland Heights, Ohio, USA

Birth Name

Mary Debra Winger


out of 10
User Rating
14 votes


This perky, throaty brunette came to acting via a route much different than those taken by most of her contemporaries. At the age of 16, she dropped out of school and went to live in a kibbutz in Israel and spent three months in the Israeli Army. She…more


Trivia and Quotes

  • Trivia

    • In 2002, Debra won the Master Screen Artist Tribute at the USA Film Festival.

    • In 1994, Debra won the award for Best Actress at the Tokyo International Film Festival for her work in the 1993 film A Dangerous Woman.

    • In 1983, Debra won the ShoWest Award at the ShoWest Convention, USA in the category of Female Star of the Year.

    • Debra dated actors Nick Nolte and Al Pacino. She also went out with U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey.

    • Debra appeared in a TV commercial for Cheer detergent in 1978.

    • Debra portrayed the role of Li'l Bit in the play How I Learned to Drive in the American Repertory Theatre in 1998.

    • Among the directors Debra would like to work with are Wes Anderson, Bernardo Bertolucci, Richard Attenborough, Agnieszka Holland, and Quentin Tarantino.

    • Debra is the daughter of Robert Winger, a kosher meatpacker, and Ruth Felder, an office worker. She has a sister, Marla and a brother, Marc.

    • Debra graduated from James Monroe High School in Sepulveda, California in 1972.

    • Debra turned down the role of Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction. The part eventually went to Glenn Close. She also turned down roles in Peggy Sue Got Married, Bull Durham, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Broadcast News, and Music Box.

    • Debra was known as a new kind of sex symbol after filming the bull-riding scene in the 1980 movie Urban Cowboy.

    • Debra enjoys reading, cooking, bicycling, and Yoga in her free time.

    • Debra is named after her father's favorite actress, Debra Paget.

    • Debra earned her first Emmy nomination in 2005 for "Best Actress" for her role in the television movie Dawn Anna which was directed by her husband, Arliss Howard.

    • Debra returned to acting in her husband's film Big Bad Love, which she also co-produced in 2001.

    • Debra's absence from film for six years inspired a documentary by Rosanna Arquette titled Searching For Debra Winger, which she appeared in, about ageism in Hollywood.

    • Debra filmed the movie Forget Paris with Billy Crystal in 1995. The film flopped. At age 40, she decided to become a stay at home mother. This was due to a fear that there were no longer any good roles for women her age.

    • Debra left Timothy Hutton in 1988, and they were divorced by 1990. She met Arliss Howard, her next husband while filming a movie together in 1993. Debra and Arliss have a son together, Gideon "Babe" Howard who was born on June 15, 1997.

    • Debra had a run of bad luck, and made a string of unsuccessful movies: Made In Heaven in 1987, Betrayed in 1988, Everybody Wins in 1990, and The Sheltering Sky in 1991.

    • Debra was offered her choice of roles in the 1987 thriller Black Widow. She chose to play the part of the investigator because she couldn't understand the thinking of a serial killer.

    • Debra dated the Governor of Nebraska, Robert Kerrey for six years, until she shocked everyone by leaving him and marrying Timothy Hutton, in 1986.

    • Debra took a role in 1986 to revive her career, in the comedy Legal Eagles. She didn't like the film, and publicly stated that the director Ivan Reitman and Taylor Hackford of An Officer and a Gentleman, were two of the worst directors she'd ever worked with. It was at this time, that she also walked out on her agency, CAA.

    • Debra dropped out of the acting scene in 1983, after her success with Terms of Endearment. She kept turning down offers for the next three years, with no explanation. This damaged her career.

    • Debra received her first Academy award nomination for her lead role opposite Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman in 1982.

    • Debra went on to play roles in two movies in 1978: French Postcards and Thank God It's Friday. The movies got her nowhere, then came her big break. Sissy Spacek turned down the lead role of Sissy in Urban Cowboy and Debra won out over an unknown Michelle Pfeiffer, to skyrocket her into the limelight.

    • Debra made her feature film debut in the film Slumber Party '57, in 1977.

    • Debra was working at an amusement park after college, when she was thrown from a truck. She suffered severe back injuries that plagued her into her adult years. While in the hospital, she decided that she would pursue her life's dream, and act.

    • Debra was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, in 1983, for her role in the movie Terms of Endearment.

    • In 1994, Debra Winger made a brief comeback with an Oscar nomination for Shadowlands.

    • In 1984 she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama, for her role in the box-office hit Terms of Endearment.

    • In 1980 she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Supporting Role for her role in the movie Urban Cowboy.

    • One of the most misinterpreted things about Debra Winger is that it has always been a rumor that she did the voice of E.T. The facts suggest otherwise, but a lot of people from Hollywood will not let that rumor die.

  • Quotes

    • Debra: (on her being "ferocious") The ferocity is the fuel but I know not where it comes from. But it's my passion for life. I've had enough experiences in life - like my accident - and I have a healthy respect for elderly people - all these things have an impact. I just live in the truth and think that every moment counts.

    • Debra: I happen to be interested in watching a face age. I like faces of women aging so it makes me personally quite sad. That's a beautiful gift from God. If people don't want to see that anymore then I won't be in anymore movies.

    • Debra: (on the circumstances she would want to continue working in films) Show me the story. I just want to tell a story that pulls me forward. Granted there are only seven stories in the universe. And I agree with that. But give me a great variation of those stories. And literate.

    • Debra: I have enjoyed a wonderful run in films, so far, and I may, at some point, come back. But it will be in my own time and in my own style.

    • Debra: This is what the business can turn you into. It can make us all so neurotic about what is written about us and what is being said. You live by your image and what others think of you. I never considered myself falling into that trap very often, but obviously I did.

    • Debra: I had this reputation for being 'difficult'. But would a man have suffered the same accusation? He would probably have been admired for speaking his mind and be called a 'perfectionist'.

    • Debra: I do not need a lot of money to be happy. I had a new marriage, I wanted another child and it seemed ridiculous to run off for three months to do another film. I had also reached 40, a point in life when things can get really tough in Hollywood. I looked around and thought: It's time to go.

    • Debra: (on retiring) Nothing quite compares with the sense of liberation I felt. It stays with me: I am happy and I am free. There are no more auditions, no more waiting for phone calls, no more depending on the judgment of others. I can do what I like, go where I like and say what I like.

    • Debra: When I retired, I retired from the unsavoriness of show business. I didn't retire from acting.

    • Debra: If I could have one prayer answered, I would pray for patience. I move so fast sometimes. I try to slow down.

    • Debra: (on growing older) We're all freaked out. You just have to be freaked out quietly. It happens about 42, 43. You can feel where it's going to go. Here's my recipe: Live with fewer mirrors.

    • Debra: (the movie being "Big Bad Love) I'm in tune with something now, doing this [movie] and exploring the possibility of playing women over 40 without facial surgery! I don't know if there's a market for it-but I'm interested in it.

    • Debra: I don't think that I'm that easy to live with. I have to be reminded that I can have fun. I need my family to remind me in a loving and nice way to lighten up.

    • Debra: I am glad that I took a hiatus from Hollywood when I did. It may have changed my path in acting, but I think it was meant to go that way. The parts I was getting just didn't feel right, the people I was working with didn't feel right, and so I dropped out. I concentrated my efforts on myself and my family, and that was where I needed to be. Hollywood is still there, their childhoods are not.

    • Debra: I had a very hard time filming An Officer and a Gentleman. I did not get along with the director, or the production crew, it seemed like that movie was going to drag on forever. The result was spectacular, but the process was grueling.