Born at 5:15pm-EDT
Daughter of Robert and Ruth Winger.
Attended and graduated from Oliver Wendell Holmes Junior High School in Northridge, California in 1970.
Attended and graduated from James Monroe High School in Sepulveda, California in 1973.
Had a romance with then-Governor of Nebraska Bob Kerrey during the filming of Terms of Endearment (1983).
Sister-in-law of actor/writer Jim Howard.
Gave birth to her 1st child at age 31, a son Emmanuel Noah Hutton (aka Noah Hutton) on April 29, 1987. Child's father is her 1st (now ex) husband, Timothy Hutton.
Gave birth to her 2nd child at age 42, a son Babe Howard on June 15, 1997. Child's father is her 2nd husband, Arliss Howard.
James L. Brooks wrote Broadcast News (1987) especially for her, but she turned it down because she was pregnant with her son Noah Hutton, and the role went to Holly Hunter, who was nominated for an Oscar for it.
At first, she was excited about winning the role of Wonder Girl on the television series Wonder Woman (1975) but quickly became disillusioned and spent all her salary from the series to hire an attorney to get her out of her contract.
Didn't like working with Lynda Carter on Wonder Woman (1975) but Lynda said that they didn't have any problems and was like a big sister to her.
She was given the choice of the two roles in Black Widow (1987); she chose the role of the FBI agent, because she didn't understand the motivation as to why the Black Widow kills, so the title role went to Theresa Russell.
In 1995, she appeared in London, Washington, and New York with both the London Symphony and the New World Symphony under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas, performing his composition based on the life of Anne Frank.
Her notorious off-camera clashes with equally mercurial Shirley MacLaine brought out the best in both actresses in the complexity of their on-camera contentious mother/daughter relationship during the making of their Oscar-winning film Terms of Endearment (1983). When MacLaine nabbed the Best Actress Oscar instead of fellow nominee Winger in 1984 and famously shouted, "I deserve this!," she managed to address her co-star as "dear Debra" despite the fact there was no love lost between them.
She turned down Karen Allen's role in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), which turned out to be one of the highest grossing films of all time.
She turned down the role of Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction (1987), which went to Glenn Close.
She was originally signed to play Peggy Sue Bodell in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) but was forced to withdraw after her back was severely injured in a bicycle accident. Debra missed out on other roles, due to the many months it took her to fully recover.
Directed by eight Academy Award winners: Steven Spielberg, Jonathan Demme, James L. Brooks, Taylor Hackford, Costa-Gavras, Bernardo Bertolucci, David S. Ward and Richard Attenborough.
Friends with Sheena Easton.
When she was 14, her father had installed a burglar alarm for the celebrated director George Cukor and told him that his daughter wanted to be a actress. Cukor looked at Winger and told her, "That voice, and you got no walk and you got no class!" She suspected that her father might have put Cukor up to this, in order to discourage her from pursuing a acting career. Cukor was still alive when Winger became a star with Urban Cowboy (1980) but he didn't get a chance to know about her first Oscar nomination as Best Actress for An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), since the nomination was announced a few days after he died.
She spent a good part of the 1980s trying to get the studios to cast her in a biography of the torch-singer Libby Holman, and another on Isabel Eberhardt, a 19th-century mystic who became involved in fighting religious wars in the Middle East. But she had burned bridges with influential Hollywood people with her outspokenness, and the studios were also reluctant to finance female-driven films, so the two biographies were never made.
She had seen her first husband actor Timothy Hutton on TV when he accepted the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Ordinary People (1980) and fell in love with him. She met him in person two years later in 1983 for a film that they were supposed to be cast in called "Road Show" but it was revamped and made with different actors a decade later under a new title Medicine Man (1992). Hutton later said they talked for six hours about everything at that first meeting, and Winger said there was so much electricity between them that they got scared and ran in opposite directions. They kept running into each other once every six months, and Hutton later described these encounters "like turning magnets around." They finally stuck together when Winger emceed Farm Aid on New Year's Eve in 1986 and Hutton was one of the guests. Almost immediately, they started living together and married just three months later. Despair followed the happy occasion. Her orthodox Jewish grandmother stopped talking to her, because Hutton wasn't Jewish. Worse, Winger miscarried when she got pregnant on her wedding night. She got pregnant again and gave birth to their son Noah Hutton in 1987, but just a year later, they separated and divorced two years later. During their short marriage, they appeared together in two films (Made in Heaven (1987) and Betrayed (1988)) that flopped at the box office, as well as a "Life" magazine cover. A decade after their divorce, Winger (married to her second husband Arliss Howard) said that there was "no bad blood" between them. In 2016, she and Howard invited their ex-spouses to spend Thanksgiving with them, and she said there was no awkwardness or tension anymore, and they comforted each other, with the disappointing news that Donald Trump was just elected President of United States.
She had a on-and-off relationship with Senator Bob Kerrey from 1982 to 1990, but she never married him contrary to persistent rumors, although they remained friends. She picked husbands, who, like her, were also actors. Unlike her, both Timothy Hutton and Arliss Howard were both Gentiles. However, she raised the sons she had with them in Jewish faith.
She was angry when director Penny Marshall cast Madonna in A League of Their Own (1992) telling her, "You're making an Elvis movie." Marshall didn't know what that meant, which frustrated Winger even more, since she dropped out of the film and Geena Davis got her role. Madonna was no fan of Winger either, since she told Carrie Fisher that one of her nicknames was Kit Moresby, a character from a novel she loved, until she saw the film adaptation of that novel where Winger played Kit in The Sheltering Sky (1990). She told Fisher, "I didn't want to be Kit Moresby anymore, because it was so disappointing. I didn't want people to think that I was Debra Winger." What's ironic is that both their ex-husbands Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn worked together twice in Taps (1981) and The Falcon and the Snowman (1985) and became friends.
In spite of her reputation of being difficult, several people repeatedly worked with her because of her talent: filmmaker James Bridges (Urban Cowboy (1980) and Mike's Murder (1984)), actors Nick Nolte (Cannery Row (1982) and Everybody Wins (1990)) and Gabriel Byrne (A Dangerous Woman (1993) and In Treatment (2008)), actresses Angie Dickinson (Police Woman: Task Force: Cop Killer: Part 1 (1976) and Big Bad Love (2001)) and Rosanna Arquette (Big Bad Love (2001) and Searching for Debra Winger (2002)), writer/actor David Mamet ( Black Widow (1987) and the stage play "The Anarchist" (2012)), her first husband Timothy Hutton ((Made in Heaven (1987) and Betrayed (1988)) and current husband Arliss Howard (Wilder Napalm (1993), Big Bad Love (2001), Dawn Anna (2005)), the stage plays "How I Learned To Drive" (1998) and "Ivanov" (1999)).
She didn't get along with her leading man Richard Gere during the making of the hit film An Officer and a Gentleman (1982). She publicly called him a "brickwall", while he said there was "tension" between them. He played the title role, had top billing, had more screen time and earned a larger salary than her, while hers was just a love interest role. Still, he reacted badly when he realized that she was stealing every scene she was in with her charisma and acting talent that resulted in a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her, while he wasn't nominated at all. Thirty years later, they patched things up when she presented him with an award at the Rome Film Festival.
Tim Matheson said that the then-unknown Debra "rocked her audition" to play his girlfriend in Dreamer (1979) but the studio decided to cast Susan Blakely instead.
Among her admirers was Bette Davis who lauded the actress for having talent and for being "difficult," since she, herself, had been called "difficult" because she went the distance for her roles.
She turned down Jessica Lange's role in Music Box (1989).
According to Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)'s memoir, Michael Douglas originally offered her the role of Joan in Romancing the Stone (1984). They met at a Mexican restaurant to discuss it but, according to Douglas, she ended up biting him. She didn't get the part. She was also considered for Turner's role in Body Heat (1981).