Who is Debra Winger?

American actress Debra Lynn Winger was born in Cleveland Heights, Ohio USA, on 16 May 1955, making Taurus her zodiac sign. She’s appeared in 48 TV series and movies, and is perhaps still known best for portraying the main character Emma Horton in the 1983 comedy movie “Terms of Endearment”, written and directed by James L. Brooks, and which also starred Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson. It follows Aurora who’s searching for the man of her dreams, and the movie won 32 of its 50 award nominations, including five Oscar wins, some of which for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role and Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Debra’s still today active in the movie industry, and is currently working on several upcoming projects.

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Education and early life

Debra was raised in Cleveland Heights by her mother Ruth (nee Felder) who was an office manager, and father Robert Winger who was a meat packer.

Debra spent a lot of time in Israel while growing up, volunteering on a kibbutz; she also said in an interview that she’d joined the Israel Defense Forces, but in 2008 denied her own statement. She was 18 when she returned to the US and was involved in a car crash, which left her blind and partially paralyzed for nearly a year; Debra was told she might never see again, and decided that if she were to recover, she would move to Los Angeles, California and pursue acting.

She studied at James Monroe High School, matriculating in 1973.

Roles in movies

Debra’s debut film role was playing Debbie, one of the main characters in the 1976 comedy “Slumber Party ‘57”, written and directed by William A. Levey, and which also starred Janet Wood and Noelle North; it follows six members of a high school female basketball team, who’ve organized a party during which they will speak about their first sexual encounter. The remainder of the ’70s saw Debra appear in the sports drama “Special Olympics” and the musical comedy “Thank God It’s Friday” both in 1978,  and the 1979 romantic comedy “French Postcards”.

She made an uncredited appearance in the evergreen 1982 adventure family science fiction “E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial”, and the same year saw her play the main character Paula Pokrifki in the hit romantic drama “An Officer a and a Gentleman”, which Taylor Hackford directed, and which also starred David Keith and Richard Gere. It follows a man who’s trying to graduate from the Navy Officer Candidate School, and the movie won nine of its 22 award nominations, including two Oscar wins for Best Music, Original Song and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Louis Gossett Jr). Debra could then have been seen appearing in the 1984 mystery thriller “Mike’s Murder”, the 1987 crime thriller “Black Widow”, and the 1988 crime thriller “Betrayed”.

Debra had a couple of film roles in the ‘90s – the most popular amongst these was perhaps the 1993 biographical romantic drama “Shadowlands”, in which she starred alongside Anthony Hopkins and Julian Fellowes, and which was directed by Richard Attenborough. It follows the life of Christian theologian C. S. Lewis, and the movie won seven of its 21 award nominations, including Oscar nominations for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Published and Best Actress in a Leading Role (Debra).

Some of Debra’s most notable performances in the 2000s were perhaps in the 2003 biographical sports drama “Radio”, the 2005 drama “Dawn Anna”, and the 2008 romantic drama “Rachel Getting Married”.

Her three most recent film roles have been in the 2017 romantic comedy “The Lovers”, the 2020 crime comedy “Kajillionaire”, and the 2021 drama “With/In: Volume 2”.

Roles in TV series

Debra’s debut TV series role was playing Drusilla, aka Wonder Girl in three episodes of the 1976 action fantasy adventure “Wonder Woman”, and the remainder of the decade saw her appear in single episodes of the comedy “Szysznyk”, the crime action “Police Woman”, and the drama “James at 16”.

She had no roles in TV series in the ‘80s, and her next came in 1992, when cast to play the title role in the episode “A Day With Debra” of the animated adventure comedy “Sesame Street”. Debra once again had no TV series roles for several years, until cast to play Principal Woodside in the 2010 episode “Boy on Fire” of the crime mystery “Law & Order”.

In the same year, she portrayed Frances Greer in seven episodes of the critically acclaimed drama “In Treatment”, created by Rodrigo Garcia and Hagai Levi, and which starred Gabriel Byrne, Uzo Aduba and Dianne Wiest. It follows a psychotherapist who’s begun seeing his old therapist, the series aired from 2008 through 2021, and won eight of its 61 award nominations.

From 2016 through 2020, Debra played Maggie Bennett in the popular western comedy “The Ranch”, created by Jim Patterson and Don Reo, and which also starred Ashton Kutcher, Sam Elliott and Grady Lee Richmond; the series follows a professional Football Player who’s returned home to help run the family ranch; the series won three of its eight award nominations.

Debra’s since appeared in two more TV series, playing Trish McSapphire in six episodes of the 2021 crime comedy “Ultra City Smiths”, and Ruth Corman in four episodes of the 2021 comedy “Mr. Corman”.

Other credits

Debra worked as a creative consultant on the 2010 documentary movie “GasLand”.

She produced the 2001 romantic comedy movie “Big Bad Love” and the 2012 biographical documentary film “Bel Borba Aqui”.

Some of Debra’s recent talk-show appearances have been in “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen”, “The Comedy Store” and “Hollywood Insider”.

Awards and nominations

Debra’s won five of her 33 award nominations, including her three Oscar nominations for Best Actress in a Leading Role in 1983, 1984 and 1994, for her performance in “An Officer and a Gentleman”, “Terms of Endearment” and “Shadowlands”, respectively.

Some of her wins include a 1983 ShoWest Award for Female Star of the Year, a 1984 National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actress, for “Terms of Endearment”, and a 1994 Tokyo International Film Festival Award for Best Actress, for “A Dangerous Woman”.

Love life and relationships

Debra’s married twice, and has been in several relationships.

She and American actor Andrew Rubin were in a relationship from 1977 through 1980, and she was then in a relationship with American politician Joseph Robert ‘Bob’ Kerrey from 1983 through 1985 – at that time, Bob was the governor of Nebraska. Debra then dated American actor Nick Nolte, who starred alongside her in the movies “Everybody Wins” and “Cannery Row”.

She married famous American actor and director Timothy Tarquin Hutton in a large ceremony in 1986, and Debra gave birth to their son Noah Hutton on 29 April 1987, but she and Timothy divorced in 1990.

Since 1996, she’s been married to her second husband, American actor, screenwriter and director Leslie Richard ‘Arliss’ Howard. Debra gave birth to their son Gideon Babe Ruth Howard on 15 June 1997, while Leslie also has a son with his former wife.

Interesting facts and hobbies

Debra was invited to portray the lead character in the 1981 action adventure movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, but declined, and the role went to Karen Allen, who starred alongside Harrison Ford in the movie which went on to become one of the highest grossing of all time. She was then also offered a starring role in the 1986 fantasy comedy movie “Peggy Sue Got Married”, but had to reject the offer because she had suffered an injury while cycling; the film also became a hit.

The main character in the 1987 romantic comedy movie “Broadcast News” was written specifically for Debra, however, she was pregnant and didn’t want to act; the character was thus portrayed by Holly Hunter, and she was nominated for an Oscar for her performance.

Her son Noah’s married to American actress, producer and director Taylor Hess.

Debra’s favorite actress is Bette Davis, while some of her favorite movies include “The Whales of August”, “A Piano for Mrs Cimino”, and “Right of Way”.

Height, eyes and wealth

Debra’s age is 67. Her eyes are blue and hair is brown, she’s 5ft 4ins (1.63m) tall and weighs around 120lbs (55kgs).

Debra’s net worth’s been estimated at over $8 million, as of April 2023.

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