When Debra Winger decided to walk away from Hollywood at the age of 40, she was by no means at a low point in her career; in fact, just one year earlier she'd received her third Academy Award nomination.After memorable performances in It was an extremely personal decision, spurred by her growing disillusionment with the movie business. I'm living under the freaking sign now, and I just stare at it and laugh," Debra, now 62, told . My life challenged me more than the parts, so I dove into it fully.".During her six-year hiatus, she kept busy, getting involved in environmental activism and charity work, acting onstage with the American Repertory Theater, and enjoying the simple things: reading, gardening, and raising her children.
After spending time in Israel, Winger returned to California and found a job at an amusement park.
She was badly injured in an accident while working there.
Photo: Paramount Pictures As a teenager, Debra Winger worked in an amusement park.
One day, dressed as a troll, she was thrown from a pickup truck and suffered a cerebral hemorrhage that left her partially paralyzed and blind in one eye. Lying in a hospital bed, Winger vowed that if she ever got her life back, she'd become an actor.
While making "Terms of Endearment," Winger was told that the governor of Nebraska wanted to meet her.
Bob Kerrey was handsome, single and a Democrat, but the actress hesitated—she thought he was too conservative and looked like a Martian.Although she didn't have much training as an actor, Winger took a "method" approach to her breakthrough role as Sissy in 1980's "Urban Cowboy." To prepare for the part, she took a waitress job at Gilley's bar. As a result, she was obligated to play some nude scenes. It didn't help that she and Richard Gere were like oil and water, keeping their distance from each other whenever the camera wasn't rolling.After the movie went into production, she hung out with Gilley's regulars and drove Sissy's red Mustang on her days off. She later referred to her co-star as "a brick wall."Even worse than the tension with Richard Gere was Winger's notorious feud with Shirley Mac Laine, who played her devoted mom in 1983's "Terms of Endearment." It got so bad one day that Mac Laine fled the set."I thought for a lot of years that all those guys [in Hollywood] would at some point want to make movies about their mothers—then, I thought, it'll finally get interesting out there.But that didn't happen."She ended her hiatus in 2001 with the film , in which she stars alongside her husband Arliss, but she admitted that returning to acting was much harder than leaving.But whatever behind the scenes tension existed, the pair created one of film’s most memorable daughter-mother duos.