There’s no business quite like show business. Compared to any other industry, Hollywood has a knack for presentation, but also for judging people’s merit based off of their own presentation; it’s a double-edged sword. Actress Winona Ryder became an icon during the 1990s, but she almost didn’t get her iconic role in Heathers due to – you guessed it – presentation.
Speaking with Interview Magazine, Winona Ryder revealed that she had to fight for her now iconic role in the 1988 movie Heathers because the producers initially did not deem her "pretty" enough:
I was not the first choice for Veronica in Heathers. I auditioned and they were like, ‘Oh, thanks.’ And I went to the Beverly Center to Macy's and had them do a makeover on me. … I went back because I kind of knew that they thought I wasn't pretty enough. They were trying to get Jennifer Connelly.
So in terms of the quality of her performance we can likely assume that getting dolled up didn’t improve her ability to act. The producers chose her the second time around because she went to Macy’s and made a concerted effort to improve her appearance. In Ryder’s own words, the producers wanted someone who resembled a starlet of the era, such as Jennifer Connelly.
That sort of superficiality is something that befalls all people who strive to be actors, but we can’t be naïve and believe that it impacts men and women equally. Women have long been held to unrealistic standards of beauty in the film and television industries, and it handicaps them in their quests for roles they would otherwise qualify for. Just take the example of Maggie Gyllenhaal last year; she’s an Oscar nominated actress, but was told by producers of an upcoming film that at 37-years-old, she seemed "too old" to portray the love interest of a man in his 50’s.
We’re just glad that Winona Ryder decided to play the game and fight for the role in Heathers; we couldn’t imagine anyone else playing that part. As Veronica in Heathers, Ryder managed to strike an effortless balance between likable protagonist and cool, popular girl in high school. It’s the sort of role that most definitely requires a pretty face, but to ever say that Ryder (even on her worst day) doesn’t have one of those seems like taking it a bit too far.
Times have changed since Winona Ryder was the next big name in Hollywood, but in many ways things continue to stay the same. New actors and actresses have risen to become our modern heartthrobs, but the industry hasn’t changed its tendency towards superficial casting and an emphasis on a pretty face over raw talent.