Last seen (briefly) on screen in 1998's Woody Allen comedy "Celebrity," the two-time Oscar nominee spent six years developing the project after she fell in love with Susanna Kaysen's memoir about her two years at a mental institution in the 1960s. Ryder set herself up to play Kaysen, brought in director James Mangold ("Copland") and suggested starlet Angelina Jolie for the co-starring role of Lisa, Susanna's sociopath friend.
But as awards season heats up, it's Jolie, not Ryder, who's getting the buzz. Already, the 24-year-old Jolie has picked up a Golden Globe nomination and been named Best Supporting Actress by the Broadcast Film Critics Association.
"When Jolie's on screen," TV Guide Online wrote, "everyone else might as well lie down and play dead." Ouch.
Was Ryder's thunder stolen?
"Simply, Angelina Jolie has the showier role ... [while] Winona is playing the much more retrospective part," says Bob Strauss, veteran film critic for the Los Angeles Daily News. "I can think of no other real reason. Angelina plays it well, but Winona plays her role just as well. It's by design, not pyrotechnics."
"I like them both, but Winona had the tougher job and the more painstaking performance to give," Strauss says. "... She acts primarily with her face and looks. She has to evoke a certain complexity and depth of thoughtfulness that certainly a sociopath doesn't even concern herself with."
Still, award-show voters love a good nutcase -- heck, even Brad Pitt got an Oscar nomination out of the gig (for his crazy-guy schtick in 1995's "Twelve Monkeys.")
Hollywood also loves a good Joan Crawford-Bette Davis catfight. But where "Girl, Interrupted" is concerned, there appears to be little evidence that Ryder and Jolie sparred -- even if the newcomer was stealing the (relative) oldcomer's film.
Of course, you couldn't call the two actresses buddies, either. During "Girl, Interrupted's" shoot, the two reportedly stayed so deep in their characters that they didn't connect socially. Jolie has maintained that their distance was not the result of tension.
Both actresses have reportedly expressed interest in playing the lead in the "Kiss the Girls" sequel, which originally starred Ashley Judd. If the competition for the role heats up the way studios like it to, Hollywood may get its catfight after all.