Calling him out. Winona Ryder claimed Mel Gibson once made a slew of derogatory comments toward her and a friend at a Hollywood party.
The Stranger Things star, 48, went into detail about an uncomfortable interaction with the director, 64, in a new interview with the U.K.’s Sunday Times and admitted she’s faced anti-Semitism in a number of “interesting ways” throughout her career.
“We were at a crowded party with one of my good friends,” Ryder explained. “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?’”
The Heathers star added that Gibson, who has a history of making homophobic and racially charged statements, “tried” to apologize for the incident at a later date.
Nearly 10 years before recounting the Braveheart director’s distasteful comments to the Sunday Times, Ryder told the same story in an interview with GQ magazine. The Beetlejuice actress remembered Gibson making “a really horrible gay joke” before “he said something about ‘oven dodgers.’” At the time, Ryder admitted that she “didn’t get” the insensitive comment, which refers to the methods used to kill Jewish people during the Holocaust, and that she’d “never heard” that name before.
The Girl, Interrupted star, born Winona Horowitz, later admitted that this particular era of history is a “hard thing” to speak about publicly because she “had family who died in the camps.” While the Minnesota native is “not religious,” she’s proud of her Jewish heritage — but has been the target of anti-Semitic remarks several times over the course of her storied career.
“There are times when people have said, ‘Wait, you’re Jewish? But you’re so pretty!’” she told the Sunday Times. “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 allegations against Gibson add to a long list of the Lethal Weapon star’s controversies over the years. His 2004 film The Passions of Christ has been widely perceived as anti-Semitic, and two years later, Gibson was forced to apologize after allegedly shouting “despicable” remarks about the Jewish community during an arrest.
“There is no excuse, nor should there be any tolerance, for anyone who thinks or expresses any kind of anti-Semitic remark,” he later told the New York Times. “I want to apologize specifically to everyone in the Jewish community for the vitriolic and harmful words that I said to a law enforcement officer the night I was arrested on a D.U.I. charge. I am a public person, and when I say something, either articulated and thought out, or blurted out in a moment of insanity, my words carry weight in the public arena.”
A rep for Gibson later told Us Weekly that Ryder’s account of the interaction was “100 percent untrue.”
“She lied about it over a decade ago, when she talked to the press, and she’s lying about it now,” the rep added. “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.”
Ryder responded to the claim in a statement to Us: “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. 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.”
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