LOS ANGELES – After her conviction for stealing clothes, actress Winona Ryder may have to steal some scenes to salvage her career.
Ryder can follow the examples of Halle Berry and Hugh Grant, two scandal-plagued stars whose careers quickly recovered, as she tries to persuade the public to forgive and forget.
"(Ryder) needs to prove again that she's a good actress and keep herself in the public eye while making sure this is not the last thing people remember about her," said Marla Matzer Rose, marketing reporter for The Hollywood Reporter.
"There will be a short-term effect on the price she's offered to be in pictures," Rose added. "The smart thing to do would be a juicy role in an independent film instead of going for a big, megabucks Hollywood film."
After Berry pleaded no contest to a charge that she left the scene of a February 2000 car collision, she changed the subject by raising eyebrows with a topless scene in the thriller Swordfish and impressing critics with the somber Monster's Ball performance that won her an Academy Award.
Berry successfully swept aside the scandal and is now one of Hollywood's top performers, with a starring role in the upcoming James Bond film Die Another Day.
Grant's appearance on The Tonight Show in 1995 shortly after his arrest with a prostitute helped defuse the scandal. Grant made a public apology and accepted responsibility for his actions — something Ryder has not done.
"I did a bad thing," Grant told host Jay Leno. "There you have it."
Ryder's troubles come at a time when her career has been on the downslide and — at age 31 — she has outgrown many of the youthful roles that made her famous.
Some of Ryder's most recent projects, including the Satanic thriller Lost Souls, the heartbreak romance Autumn in New York and the futuristic Hollywood satire Simone, were box office disappointments. The summer comedy Mr. Deeds was a hit, but most of the credit went to star Adam Sandler since Ryder's role was overshadowed by her theft case.
As Ryder has matured, she has experienced the same career decline as the 1980s teen-movie icon Molly Ringwald. Ryder had Oscar nominations for Little Women and The Age of Innocence but is mostly known for playing melancholy youths in films such as Girl, Interrupted, Beetlejuice, Heathers and Edward Scissorhands.
"(Ryder) has always been seen as an ingenue, but she's over 30 now and needs to transition to roles that showcase her as a mature actress," Rose said. "Doing that anytime is difficult enough, but doing it while there's this rap on you — that's going to be harder."
Although Ryder does not have a current film in the works, she has continued to receive offers even this week, according to her spokeswoman, Mara Buxbaum.
"No one has withdrawn offers (since the verdict)," Buxbaum added. "Hollywood is such a forgiving community that unless it's some sort of heinous crime, the industry is incredibly supportive."
Ryder is developing the circus-themed film Roustabout with the production firm MDP Worldwide, and company president Mark Damon has said her criminal case would have little effect on the production.
Depending on details of her probation, however, Ryder could face difficulty traveling to location shoots, which may limit her options.
Some speculated the felony conviction would prevent Ryder's films from securing insurance, but experts say she will likely be eligible for standard policies.
"This jury decision would not necessarily put the kibosh on any film in which Ms. Ryder starred, but it would prompt a lot of questions that only she could answer ... about likelihood of reoccurrence," said John Kozero, spokesman for Fireman's Fund Insurance Co., which provides policies to the film industry.