Debra Winger

Academy Award-nominated Actor
Author of Undiscovered
Humanitarian & Activist

By her own definition, Debra Winger is first, a mother, second, a human rights advocate and environmental activist, and thirdly, an actor. These three facets are all carried off with intensity, fierceness, grace, and good humor. As an actor, her credits include more than twenty films and three Academy Award nominations (An Officer and a Gentleman, Terms of Endearment, and Shadowlands). While Winger has been acknowledged as one of the finest actors of stage and screen, her talents for the articulation of her craft are outmatched only by her elegance of character as mother and emissary. Winger appeared on television as a regular in the 2010 HBO series In Treatment. She played one of Doctor Paul Weston's (Gabriel Byrne) patients, for the show's third season. In 2012 she made her Broadway debut in David Mamet's "Anarchist."

NY Times Sunday Magazine Article

In 2008 she published her debut book Undiscovered (Simon & Schuster), a collection of deeply personal vignettes reflecting on her life. Jim Harrison writes of this book: "Debra Winger’s Undiscovered is terse, lucid, raw, and occasionally explosive.  As a memoir it resembles absolutely nothing an actress ever wrote. Undiscovered reminded me of that old Zen notion of 'cooking down your life' so you can see what you’re eating. This is a tough and rewarding book, beautifully written."


In addition to speaking about her life in film, Winger is also involved with several non-profit humanitarian and social justice organizations, and speaks to the issues they present. Tahirih Justice Center works to protect immigrant women and girls from gender-based violence, such as forced marriage, female genital mutilation, domestic and intimate partner violence, trafficking, torture, and rape. Tahirih works primarily through providing legal services, advocacy, and public education programs.  Hand in Hand Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel was founded to build peace between Jews and Arabs in Israel through development of bilingual and multi-cultural schools. Students at the schools are taught in both Hebrew and Arabic, learning to treasure their own culture and language while understanding the difference of others around them. Through education for tolerance and socializing in groups with diverse attitudes, Hand in Hand will have a critical effect on the future of Israel. Winger is also an ambassador for Sightsavers International, a non-profit organization that works to combat blindness in developing countries, by providing specialist treatment and eye care. Sightsavers works to cure people who have reversible eye conditions and prevent people from becoming needlessly blind, and to provide people who are irreversibly blind with the skills to live a more independent life through education, counselling, and training.

Winger was the creative consultant for the film GASLAND, which won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance, about the Natural Gas drilling boom in the United States and its terrifying influence on the environment and the health of humans and animals. An activist for other environmental causes, Winger has also attended the EPA hearings in DC. 

View the GASLAND trailer

Winger’s arrival to acting was the culmination of a route greatly different than those of her contemporaries. As a teenager she spent some time in Israel. Upon returning to the United States, she was involved in a serious accident that left her in a coma and temporarily blind. During her recovery, Winger thought long and hard about where her life was going, and decided that, upon recuperating, she would become an actress. With this deliberate action, Winger travelled from commercials to the television series, “Wonder Woman,” to an acclaimed career in film, (Urban Cowboys, The Sheltering Sky, Legal Eagles, Black Widow, and more). She has consequently become one of the beloved actors of our time.

Gradually though, Winger came to understand her values—that superficiality is corrosive, that self-worth doesn't come with a number, and that freedom will always be an essential component of human happiness—and appreciate them as parallel to the principles of countless generations but directly opposite the priorities of the modern, western world. In 1995, at another deliberate crux in her life and career, Winger left acting and—holding to her commitment of walking her talk—did not look back. She later told the UK’s Guardian newspaper that "nothing quite compares with the sense of liberation I felt. It stays with me: I am happy and I am free."

Such was the impact of Winger’s absence from Hollywood that when Rosanna Arquette directed her documentary about the pressures faced by aging actresses in an industry which seems to provide fewer and fewer roles for women beyond their twenties, she entitled it Searching For Debra Winger.

Fortunately, Winger is not entirely finished with film as medium. Married now to director Arliss Howard, and in the midst of raising three sons, she manages to find the time for the screen again; and she approaches it with more radiance, zeal, and “plucky intelligence” than ever before. While filming Big Bad Love, her first movie in ten years (produced by Winger and directed by Howard who also co-stars), Winger said, "I'm in tune with something now, doing this [movie] and exploring the possibility of playing women over 40 without facial surgery! I don't know if there's a market for it—but I'm interested in it." In 2008, she returned to the screen, to great acclaim, in Johnathon Demme's film, Rachel Getting Married. Looking ahead, Winger hopes Hollywood as a whole will strive to tell more stories about older women. "I don't know what the aversion is—I'm so proud of the fact that I've lived through most of what I've lived through!" Winger appeared on television as a regular in the 2010 HBO series In Treatment. She played one of Doctor Paul Weston's (Gabriel Byrne) patients, for the show's third season.

In this lyrical, deeply personal book, the beloved, three-time Oscar-nominated actress Debra Winger reveals how she has drawn on her creative talents to transform a successful career into a fulfilling life. Known for her indelible, Oscar-caliber performances in such films as Terms of Endearment, An Officer and a Gentleman, and Urban Cowboy, Winger demonstrates that her creative range extends from screen to page, giving us an intimate glimpse of an artist wide-ranging in her gifts. Undiscovered is a book about transformations—personal, artistic, spiritual. Here, Winger passionately makes her case for forging a life beyond acting, lived among the people who inspire her—and shows how she has done just that. This is her first book.