Winona Ryder shared her experience with anti-Semitism in Hollywood, repeating am encounter at a party from 1996 with Mel Gibson in which she said the actor referred to her as a Jewish “oven dodger.”
“We were at a crowded party with one of my good friends, and Mel Gibson was smoking a cigar, and we’re all talking and he said to my friend, who’s gay, ‘Oh wait, am I gonna get AIDS?’ And then something came up about Jews, and he said, ‘You’re not an oven dodger, are you,’” Ryder told the London-based Sunday Times while promoting her role in the HBO limited series “The Plot Against America.”
A representative for Gibson said that Ryder’s comments are “100% untrue” and that Ryder is lying.
“This is 100% untrue. She lied about it over a decade ago, when she talked to the press, and she’s lying about it now,” the representative said. “Also, she lied about him trying to apologize to her back then. He did reach out to her, many years ago, to confront her about her lies and she refused to address it with him.”
In response to the statement from Gibson’s representative, Ryder issued a new statement to TheWrap:
“I believe in redemption and forgiveness and hope that Mr. Gibson has found a healthy way to deal with his demons, but I am not one of them,” Ryder said in a statement. “Around 1996, my friend Kevyn Aucoin and I were on the receiving end of his hateful words. It is a painful and vivid memory for me. Only by accepting responsibility for our behavior in this life, can we make amends and truly respect each other, and I wish him well on this lifelong journey.”
Ryder, who was born Winona Lauren Horowitz, said she identifies as Jewish though she does not consider herself “religious.” “It’s a hard thing for me to talk about because I had family who died in the camps,” she said, referring to the Nazi concentration camps where millions of Jews were killed during World War II.
The actress also told The Sunday Times that she’s experienced other instances of anti-Semitism throughout her career. “There are times when people have said, ‘Wait, you’re Jewish? But you’re so pretty,’” Ryder said. “There was a movie that I was up for a long time ago, it was a period piece, and the studio head, who was Jewish, said I looked ‘too Jewish’ to be in a blue-blooded family.”
Ryder’s comments about Gibson were first reported in a 2010 issue of GQ, and she added that Gibson “tried” to apologize to her at a later date. Gibson’s rep says that this is also a lie, though he did confront her many years ago about it and she refused to address it.
Ryder currently stars in “The Plot Against America” and will be seen in the next season of “Stranger Things.”