Debra Winger

Debra Winger Biography

Actress (1955–)
Actress Debra Winger rose to fame in the 1980s with two hit films, 'An Officer and a Gentleman' and 'Terms of Endearment.'


Debra Winger started her career in television with a role in the popular 1970s series Wonder Woman. She then moved on to big screen success in the 1980s. Winger won accolades, including two Academy Award nominations, for her performances in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) and Terms of Endearment (1983). She picked up her third Academy Award nomination for 1993’s Shadowlands. She recently returned to television in the 2016 Netflix series The Ranch with Ashton Kutcher.

Early Life

Born on May 16, 1955, in Cleveland, Ohio, actress Debra Winger is best known for her Academy Award nominated roles in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), Terms of Endearment (1983) and Shadowlands (1993). She grew up in a Jewish family and her father worked as a distributor of kosher frozen foods. Winger moved to California around the age of 6 with her family. She attended James Monroe High School in Sepulveda.

After spending time in Israel, Winger returned to California and found a job at an amusement park. She was badly injured in an accident while working there. While recuperating, Winger decided that she wanted to become an actress. She got her first big break in television in 1976 with the role of Wonder Girl on the hit TV series Wonder Woman starring Lynda Carter.

Top Film Star

Winger’s acting career began to take off with the 1980 country drama Urban Cowboy, co-starring John Travolta. Two years later, Winger reached an even higher level with An Officer and a Gentleman. She and Richard Gere won over audiences with this military romance, which also earned Winger her first Academy Award nomination. Behind the scenes, however, was tense: she called Gere “a brick wall” and thought director Taylor Hackford was “an animal,” according to a report in the Guardian newspaper.

Winger also clashed with Shirley MacLaine in making Terms of Endearment (1983). But whatever behind the scenes tension existed, the pair created one of film’s most memorable daughter-mother duos. Both performers were nominated for the Academy Award for best actress. In the end, Winger lost out to MacLaine. After this initial wave of success, Winger floundered a bit. She starred in such little-seen thrillers as Mike’s Murder (1984) and Black Widow (1987) and made a cameo with then-husband Timothy Hutton in Made in Heaven (1987). Winger did better at the box office with Legal Eagles (1986), however. In 1993, she returned to the top of her game with Shadowlands. She played an American woman who gets involved with writer C.S. Lewis (Anthony Hopkins). For her work in the film, Winger received her third Academy Award nomination.

Later Career

Taking a break from acting after 1995’s lackluster romantic comedy Forget Paris, Winger returned to the big screen in 2001 with Big Bad Love. She played a supporting role opposite her current husband Arliss Howard. The following year, she was featured in a documentary about actresses over 40 called Searching for Debra Winger. Winger has continued to work in film and television, starring in the 2005 TV movie Anna Dawn and appearing the 2008 independent drama Rachel Getting Married. In 2016, she joined the cast of western comedy The Ranch, which also stars Ashton Kutcher, Danny Masterson and Sam Elliott.

Personal Life

Winger and husband Arliss Howard have a son, Babe, together. She also has a son, Noah, from her first marriage to Timothy Hutton.

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