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Winona Ryder keeps eyes open to snooping, erosion of privacy

Stephen Schaefer / Boston Herald | July 5 2006

For her return to the spotlight in ‘‘A Scanner Darkly” (opening Friday), Winona Ryder was extremely low-key during a recent press conference that marked her first meeting with reporters since the 2001 Saks shoplifting scandal that nearly destroyed her career.

Just before Ryder’s arrival alongside co-star Keanu Reeves and director Richard Linklater (‘‘The School of Rock”) came the warning/announcement, ‘‘No personal questions.” Ryder, who had been filming all night for a new movie, wasn’t going to turn this into a confessional.

The 34-year-old actress has never discussed the prescription painkillers that were in her purse when she was busted by surveillance cameras in a Beverly Hills Saks Fifth Avenue dressing room.

But her conviction nearly a year later did give an eerie life-mirrors-art moment when she discussed the trippy animated film ‘‘Scanner.”

‘‘A Scanner Darkly” is adapted from a novel by the late sci-fi guru Philip K. Dick. Other Dick-inspired movies include ‘‘Blade Runner,” ‘‘Total Recall” and ‘‘Minority Report.” In ‘‘Scanner,” he foresaw a world where monitors spy on everyone.

An undercover narcotics agent (Reeves) lives in a house with a bunch of druggies played by Robert Downey, Woody Harrelson and Ryder. As they get high on something called Substance D, they become paranoid that they are being watched. The joke is that they are: Their entire house has secret surveillance cameras.

Ryder had obviously given some thought to the subject of hidden surveillance cameras.

‘‘It’s bad,” she said, citing such books as George Orwell’s classic ‘‘1984,” in which Big Brother watches all, and Lillian Hellman’s memoir of the McCarthy-era blacklist, ‘‘Scoundrel Time.”

‘‘Even back then they were tapping phones and stuff like that. Now I think it’s almost in a way dehumanizing, the perspective of watching people like that,” she said. ‘‘They become less human. It’s hard to articulate, but for me, from my point of view, I know that it’s pretty scary.”

Presumably from her life as a celebrity as well as her arrest and trial experience, Ryder spoke about the ‘‘you can’t believe everything you read” syndrome.

‘‘I learned a long time ago something that I didn’t know, which is that a lot of what you read in the paper that isn’t true, they say, ‘Well, we’re putting this in there because it will help us catch this person.’ And that’s, like, an OK thing to do.”

What was easy for Ryder in the movie was a love scene on a couch with Reeves.

‘‘I am in love,” she said about Reeves, who blushed as he sat next to her. ‘‘Certainly with Keanu, it’s very easy to do that.” And she added, ‘‘I’m totally serious.”

Ryder is also serious about reviving her career - only this time with a different emphasis.

‘‘I sort of made the decision to do something only if I absolutely love it. ’Cause I can’t really base my happiness or anything around this business because it’s different now, the business part of it,” she said.

Ryder has reteamed with ‘‘Heathers” filmmaker Daniel Waters and is filming ‘‘Sex and Death 101.”

‘‘It’s very twisted. I’m Death, actually. I am, literally.”

The 1989 ‘‘Heathers” still ranks as a favorite among the films she’s made, alongside ‘‘The Crucible” and ‘‘The Age of Innocence.”

‘‘And this one, definitely,” she added. ‘‘Yeah, I love this movie.”

Even with its surveillance cameras.




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