Debra Winger, Who Had Brain Hemorrhage & Was Paralyzed on One Side, Looks Unrecognizable – Her Transformation

Debra Winger had a near-death experience that left her with an injury. It took almost a year for her to recover. Over the years, she has transformed significantly. Let’s take a look at how her appearance has changed.

When she was 17, veteran star Debra Winger got severely injured while playing a troll in a Christmas amusement park show in California. She was warned about being responsible for the expensive costume, but unfortunately, she encountered a mishap. She recounted the incident in her book.


Winger reportedly wrote, “When I saw it slipping off the back of the small truck, I reached for it. At the moment I stood, the driver swerved.” As a result, she was thrown off the vehicle and hit the asphalt.

The next moment, she woke up in the hospital after suffering a brain hemorrhage. She was left completely blind and paralyzed on one side. Winger said, “I have no separation, timewise, from that experience. It doesn’t get softer. It doesn’t fade.”


It took Winger nearly a year to recover and afterward, she pursued acting. She had a brief stint in “Wonder Woman” and later landed her first big role in “Urban Cowboy” alongside John Travolta. She replaced Sissy Spacek in the film.

Winger also starred in “Cannery Row,” in 1982 and “Terms of Endearment” in 1983. But it was her 1980 role in “Urban Cowboy” that brought her recognition from audiences and critics alike.


Two years later, Winger appeared in “An Officer and a Gentleman.” Film critic Pauline Kael praised her performance in The New Yorker, writing, “Debra Winger has (and she has it right to her fingertips) . . . the vividness of those we call ‘born’ performers.” The role earned Winger an Academy Award nomination.

Winger had no acting training when she burst onto the scene. However, she made up for that by completely immersing herself in her roles. “I wanted only to be a documentation of the character. No acting techniques needed — I would simply exist inside her reality, and they would film it,” Winger explained.

Debra Winger at the inaugural Farm Aid benefit concert at Veteran’s Stadium on September 22, 1985, in Champaign, Illinois. | Source: Getty Images


Early in her career, Winger butted heads with her co-workers and was labeled difficult to work with by directors. She stood up for herself regardless.

Looking back at those experiences in an August 2021 interview, Winger said, “I felt like I was in very abusive situations, but it was my responsibility to buck up and get strong.”


On the set of “An Officer and a Gentleman,” someone offered Winger water retention pills to lose weight. Because she was young, she did not know what they were but managed to refuse to take them.

Asked how she garnered the confidence to say no, Winger shared that her mother did not teach her that. “I didn’t have great men around me growing up. I just felt strong enough to say no,” she divulged.


Amid her rise to fame, Winger married her first husband, actor and filmmaker Timothy Hutton, in 1986. The couple attended the Student Film Awards in 1987 in California. That same year, they welcomed their son, Noah Hutton. Following five years of marriage, the duo divorced in 1990.

Three years later, after earning her third Oscar nomination in 1993 for her role in “Shadowlands,” Winger decided Hollywood was no longer a place for her. In 1995, she officially left show business when she was 40 years old


At the time, the Ohio native was in the first tier of American film actresses. It was not an easy choice for Winger, who had been telling herself to stop acting and even nearly dared herself to do it for several years.

She admitted that she did not have a plan after disappearing from the limelight. Although she was not acting at that point, Winger said she did “a lot of interesting stuff.”


She visited developing countries and traveled to remote location shoots. A year after leaving Hollywood, Winger acted onstage with the American Repertory Theater.

The couple welcomed their son, Gideon Babe Ruth Howard, in 1997. Winger paid a birthday tribute to her son in June 2018. Alongside pictures of the family of four on Instagram, she wrote, “Happy Natal Day Babe… it is the hour of your birth + 21 years … LOVE is the key. Many Happy Returns – thanks for all you’ve taught and will teach me.”

The mother of two shared about her life working on the farm. She said on Sundays, she spends much of her time working in her garden, watering and planting. Winger expressed she loves doing all of these, including spending time with her beloved longtime husband and her two sons.

Six years into her hiatus, the “Legal Eagles” star participated in a documentary titled “State of the Art,” based on how the entertainment industry treats women. The documentary was later retitled “Searching for Debra Winger,” which stunned the actress.


Winger eventually returned to acting and said it was not a difficult decision to make. However, she initially did not believe she would start working, and once she did, it was challenging.

“I don’t know that I would advise anyone to step back the way I did,” the renowned actress stated. She stopped reading scripts and did not want to do it anymore.

Debra Winger at the “Rachel Getting Married” press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel on September 8, 2008 in Toronto, Canada. | Source: Getty Images


Winger had her second child and became a lecturer at Harvard University. She became happier than she had been in Hollywood. Yet her decision to leave showbiz was reportedly organic, and she did not plan an exit.

Debra Winger attends the screening of “Rachel Getting Married” at Landmark Sunshine Theater on September 25, 2008 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

Winger later remarried in 1996 to another actor and screenwriter Arliss Howard, and they have been married for 27 years. She gushed about their marriage in a 2008 interview, saying, “A good marriage is different from a happy marriage. Happy is a tough word. But I did marry…well!”


The couple welcomed their son, Gideon Babe Ruth Howard, in 1997. Winger paid a birthday tribute to her youngest son in June 2018. Alongside pictures of the family of four on Instagram, she wrote, “Happy Natal Day Babe… it is the hour of your birth + 21 years … LOVE is the key. Many Happy Returns – thanks for all you’ve taught and will teach me.”

In addition to being a family woman, Winger juggles her Hollywood career with life on a farm in Sullivan County, New York. “There’s a lot of living that needs to be done,” Winger expressed in a 2017 interview.

It has been 44 years since Winger starred in the hit film “Urban Cowboy,” and she reportedly looks unrecognizable. In April 2024, she stepped out for the “Drive-Away Dolls” premiere in New York.


At the event, the Golden Globe nominee wore her curly silver hair down. As for her outfit, she opted for a black blazer paired with a blue blouse, loose-fitting dark trousers, and black boots.

Winger accessorized with a multi-colored check scarf and dark-rimmed glasses. She was accompanied by her youngest son, who posed with her on the red carpet.

Although Winger, who turns 69 next year, appeared barely recognizable since her heyday, she still opts for a similar fashion choice as she did back in the day. This includes her thick, once-brunette curls and minimal makeup.


Debra Winger’s transformation over the years shows her resilience and adaptability. Despite the life-altering accident and the challenges she faced in Hollywood, she has continued to evolve, both personally and professionally.

Her journey from a young actress dealing with severe injuries to a veteran star who took a break from Hollywood to find herself and then returned stronger is inspiring.

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