In a timeless tale of romance, Naval Officer Zack Mayo swept factory worker Paula into his arms and whisked her away from her workplace, leaving fans everywhere longing to be the captivating Debra Winger.
The iconic scene in the romantic drama “An Officer and a Gentleman” became the epitome of love stories, with Richard Gere portraying Officer Zack Mayo, the dashing hero in his navy whites. Acting alongside some of Hollywood’s most desirable men, Debra Winger became the object of envy for many.
Even today, at the age of 67, Winger retains her timeless beauty. Recently, she has shared photos of herself on Instagram, first with brown hair and now embracing her natural wavy gray locks. Winger’s journey to stardom began with her starring role in the 1976 film “Slumber Party ’57,” which led to a part on the popular TV series “Wonder Woman” (1979), where she portrayed Drusilla, the younger sister of Lynda Carter’s Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. Although she was offered to appear more frequently on the show, Winger declined due to concerns about being typecast.
Her decision proved to be a wise one, as the early ’80s became a prosperous period for the rising star. At the height of her young career, Winger received numerous accolades from the Academy and Golden Globes for her performances in three iconic movies of the 1980s.
In 1980, she starred in “Urban Cowboy” alongside John Travolta, who had previously captivated audiences with his smooth dance moves in “Saturday Night Fever” (1977) and “Grease” (1978). Winger portrayed Paula in “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982) and delivered a memorable performance in “Terms of Endearment” (1983), where she played Emma, a terminally ill young woman with an overbearing mother, Aurora, portrayed by Shirley MacLaine.
Despite her tremendous success, Winger decided to take a brief hiatus from Hollywood, devoting time away from her acting career. Even after more than four decades since her rise to stardom, speculation about her departure continues to circulate. Most of the rumors revolve around feuds Winger allegedly had with her co-stars.
While fans couldn’t get enough of the handsome Gere, it has been widely reported that Winger had her share of difficulties with him on set. According to an excerpt from the book “An Actor and a Gentleman” by co-star Louis Gossett Jr., who portrayed Sgt. Emil Foley, the onscreen chemistry between Gere and Winger was terrific, but off-camera, they couldn’t have been further apart.
Gossett also claims that Winger wasn’t particularly impressed with Gere’s acting skills, once describing him as “a brick wall.” Additionally, Winger expressed her dislike for the film’s director, Taylor Hackford, referring to him as “animal.”
However, it wasn’t just the people involved in that particular film who seemed to ruffle her feathers. Winger, known for her free-spirited nature both in real life and in her role as Emma, also clashed with the established and glamorous MacLaine.
Their initial encounter set the tone for their relationship. MacLaine revealed in an interview that she wore all her leftover movie-star fur coats, while Winger showed up in combat boots and a miniskirt. This stark contrast left MacLaine taken aback, thinking, “Oh my goodness.”
The set of the film became a hotbed for rumors, with reports of Winger desiring top billing and even physical altercations between the two actresses.
Their rivalry extended to the Oscars when they were both nominated for Best Actress. MacLaine, taking home the trophy, boldly declared in her acceptance speech, “I deserve this!”
Setting aside the rumors, Winger maintains that she hit the “pause button” on her Hollywood career due to personal reasons rather than professional ones. She explained that the roles being offered to her didn’t interest her anymore, as she had already experienced or felt similar things in the past. Winger sought new challenges in her life, which demanded her full attention.
After starring in the 1995 romantic comedy “Forget Paris” alongside Billy Crystal, Winger took a six-year break from acting. During that time, she relocated to New York City and shifted her focus to her relationship with actor Arliss Howard, whom she married in 1996. They have a son named Gideon Babe, born in 1997, and Winger is also a stepmother to Sam, Howard’s son from a previous marriage. Winger also has another biological child, Noah Hutton, whom she mothered while married to her first husband, Timothy Hutton (1986 to 1990).
She made a comeback in the 2001 film “Big Bad Love,” which was directed and produced by her husband, who also co-starred alongside Winger and Rosanna Arquette. Arquette, in her subsequent project “Searching for Debra Winger” (2002), directed a documentary attempting to answer why Winger temporarily abandoned her career at its peak.
Winger regained momentum with notable roles in “Rachel Getting Married” (2008) alongside Anne Hathaway, the 2017 romantic comedy “The Lovers,” and the crime-comedy “Kajillionaire” (2020).
In 2021, she appeared in “With/In,” the second volume of an anthology drama film, starring in the segment titled “Her Own.” The film was written and directed by her husband, who also had a co-starring role.
Winger remarked, “I don’t know what Hollywood is. I’m living under the freaking sign now, and I just stare at it and laugh. Los Angeles is a place, but the idea of Hollywood doesn’t really exist for me,” adding, “…although there must be some in-crowds that I just don’t know about.”
Debra Winger’s absence from Hollywood would be unimaginable, and we hope to see her receive an Academy Award in the near future! Which are your favorite Winger movies?