Still, Ryder and Pirner intersect at many points. Both are curious and well read (during dinner, he uses the word cognitive twice in five minutes). Both are unaccustomed to sleeping at night (Pirner is a confirmed night owl and admits to being useless during daylight hours). And both can think sideways (Pirner wrote a song called "Homesick," which Ryder quoted in her journal months before she met him). In person, they have a sweet and easy chemistry. When one of them talks, the other stops, looks and listens. When Ryder goes to the kitchen, she pauses to put her arms around her boyfriend's neck – like a headlock, only nicer.
Pirner seems in awe of Ryder's career but not particularly envious. "The other day I heard Winona on the phone telling somebody that she didn't get in this for the money," he says. "What an absurd thing to have to say when acting was all you wanted to do since you were 13. I mean, the only aspiration I ever had was to be in a punk-rock band." Pirner seems protective of Ryder. And he seems struck by how unspoiled she remains – even after years of people minding her business. Over dessert, I ask Ryder to describe her appeal as an actress. She laughs, turns to Pirner and says, "What's my appeal, Dave?" To which he has a ready reply: "Your appeal is that you don't know what your appeal is."
I leave at midnight. Ryder sees me to the door – outside, she may walk defensively, but at home she glides like the puck in an air-hockey set. I remember something the actress read to me from her journal, something she wrote just before she parted ways with insomnia and other sorrows: "What do I feel right now? Fragile, a little confused, heartachey, a little tired." And I remember that after she read it, she said to me: "If you print any of this, will you be sure to say that this is old, that this isn't how I am right now? Because I've grown up a lot." Well, some things never change: Tonight, the actress won't get to sleep for hours and hours. Still, it won't be because she's fragile or confused. It'll be because she and her night-owl friend are hanging out: reading, watching videos, maybe goofing around on the guitar. It's a new year, and–for all the right reasons–Winona Ryder will be up all night.
This story is from the March 10th, 1994 issue of Rolling Stone.
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