Debra Winger | Richard Gere and Debra Winger | Source: Getty Images
Debra Winger | Richard Gere and Debra Winger | Source: Getty Images

Paula from 'An Officer and a Gentleman' Looks Different at 67 & Lives Privately on Farm with Spouse after Hiatus

Bettina Dizon
Apr 19, 2023
01:50 P.M.
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  • Debra Winger, widely recognized for her portrayal of Paula in "An Officer and a Gentleman," captivated audiences for years due to her on-screen chemistry with Richard Gere.
  • She decided to take a break from her career at 40 to prioritize her family after getting remarried. Presently, at 67, she leads a fulfilling life with her loving husband and cherishes her time with her grown-up sons.
  • With a noticeable change in her appearance, Debra now sports gray hair. Nevertheless, she continues to relish life alongside her family and takes pleasure in meticulously analyzing movie scripts – just as she prefers.

Debra Winger, a renowned actress, faced numerous obstacles on her path to success. Her passion for acting ignited during high school, but she chose to keep this enthusiasm hidden from her family to avoid potential criticism.

Debra Winger, a celebrated actress, has had an inspiring journey marked by determination and resilience. Her decision to keep her passion for acting a secret may have been influenced by an incident that occurred when she was 14 years old.

Her father, while installing a burglar alarm for director George Cukor, mentioned that his daughter aspired to be an actress.

Cukor's dismissive response, "That voice and you got no walk, and you got no class!" led Winger to believe that her father had colluded with the director to dissuade her from pursuing a career in acting.

Later on, Winger enrolled in college and chose to major in criminology. Simultaneously, she took up a part-time job at a local amusement park.

Tragedy struck when she was thrown from a truck, resulting in severe injuries and temporary blindness. This harrowing experience forced Winger to reassess her priorities, and while in the hospital, she resolved to pursue her true passion - acting.


Following her recovery, Winger dropped out of college and embarked on her acting career. The road to success was not smooth, as she initially had to accept commercials and guest roles in the 1970s, such as appearances in "Wonder Woman" and "Police Woman: Task Force: Part 1."

Debra Winger's rise to stardom began with her portrayal of Sissy in the film "Urban Cowboy," which established her as a Hollywood sex symbol.

She is thankful to director James Bridges, who fought for her casting by threatening to leave the project if the studio did not agree to hire her. Interestingly, Michelle Pfeiffer also auditioned for the role. Winger's career subsequently flourished, and she starred in two major hits in 1982.


One of these successes was her voice role as the titular character in "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," which became one of the highest-grossing films of all time. Winger also made a brief appearance in the movie itself, donning a zombie mask and carrying a poodle during the Halloween scene.

The same year, she co-starred with Richard Gere in "An Officer and a Gentleman." This film earned her her first Academy Award nomination and solidified her status as a beloved actress.

A fan praises "An Officer and a Gentleman" as one of her favorite movies. | Source: Facebook.com/An Officer and a Gentleman

A fan praises "An Officer and a Gentleman" as one of her favorite movies. | Source: Facebook.com/An Officer and a Gentleman

A fan claims "An Officer and a Gentleman" is her "most loved movie." | Source: Facebook.com/An Officer and a Gentleman

A fan claims "An Officer and a Gentleman" is her "most loved movie." | Source: Facebook.com/An Officer and a Gentleman

A fan says she rewatched "An Officer and a Gentleman" countless times. | Source: Facebook.com/An Officer and a Gentleman

A fan says she rewatched "An Officer and a Gentleman" countless times. | Source: Facebook.com/An Officer and a Gentleman

Unfortunately, her first Academy Award nomination came just days after the passing of director Cukor, who had once doubted her acting potential. Despite this, Winger had successfully proven herself as a talented actress, admired for her skill, charisma, and passion for the craft. As a result, many filmmakers were eager to collaborate with her.

One of Winger's most well-known skeptics, who had witnessed her rise to fame after "Urban Cowboy," was still alive. However, it remains uncertain whether he ever saw her success and acknowledged her accomplishments.


Debra Winger Disappeared from the Industry

Debra Winger, now 67, had a storied career in Hollywood, with years of experience under her belt. At just 29, she starred as Paula in "An Officer and a Gentleman," the role that propelled her to fame.

In the 1980s, Debra Winger was a sought-after actress; however, she also developed a reputation for being somewhat difficult to collaborate with. Notably, during the production of the successful film "An Officer and a Gentleman," she allegedly experienced strained relationships with both her co-star Richard Gere and director Taylor Hackford.

Following her second Academy Award for "Terms of Endearment," which won Best Picture just a year after her first nomination, Winger declined numerous roles and offers for three years.


There was speculation that her decision to turn down high-profile offers was influenced by her relationship with then-governor of Nebraska, Bob Kerrey. Others believed it may have been due to complications from a bicycle accident.

Among the notable films Winger turned down were "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in 1981 and the blockbuster hit "Fatal Attraction."

She also passed on roles in "Peggy Sue Got Married," "Music Box," and "Broadcast News," which was written specifically for her. Holly Hunter eventually took the role in "Broadcast News" and received an Academy Award nomination for her performance.


During this period, Winger's personal life also attracted significant attention. In 1986, it was reported that she ended her relationship with Bob Kerrey and eloped with actor Timothy Hutton. The couple welcomed their son, Noah, the following year.

Debra Winger's career and personal life have seen numerous ups and downs over the years. While married to actor Timothy Hutton, Winger starred in "Black Widow" and collaborated in "Made in Heaven."

Hutton also made a brief appearance in another film featuring Winger, "Betrayed." However, the couple separated in 1988 and their divorce was finalized in 1990.


A decade later, Winger found love again with Arliss Howard, her co-star in the 1993 film "Wilder Napalm." Initially, Winger believed she would remain single for the rest of her life.

However, a powerful physical attraction to Howard changed her perspective, ultimately leading her to find lasting love. "Come on! Oh no!" she thought.

In 1995, Winger made a bold move by stepping away from acting, as she felt there were no appealing roles available to her. Instead, she chose to concentrate on her family, giving birth to her second son, Babe Howard, in 1997.

Winger's decision to leave acting drew attention to the lack of quality roles for women in Hollywood, even inspiring a documentary titled "Searching for Debra Winger."


Winger's primary motivation for stepping back from her career was her desire to be a more hands-on mother. She often brought her children to the set during their early years, but she felt that she was not entirely present for them. This was something she wanted to change.

Six years after leaving acting, Winger made a comeback in Arliss Howard's film "Big Bad Love," where she not only acted but also co-produced the movie. This return to the screen reignited her passion for acting, demonstrating her resilience and dedication to both her family and her craft.

Upon returning to acting, Debra Winger encountered varied perspectives on her position in the industry. To some, she appeared as radiant and captivating as ever, while others recognized her as their “mother’s favorite actress.”


During her time away from the limelight, Winger managed her farm in upstate New York with her husband, Arliss Howard. Emphasizing her hands-on approach to life, she stated, "I don't like other people taking care of my things."

Throughout the years, Winger took on select roles while maintaining a low-profile life, raising her two sons and tending to her farm. One of her most notable performances since her hiatus was in "Rachel Getting Married," which earned her several award nominations.

Winger's initial skepticism about love transformed into a desire to keep her relationship with Howard simple and genuine. She shared her advice for sustaining a vibrant marriage: "Stay awake, stay alive, keep loving, keep lit up, and keep being able to light up the other one."


Howard, in turn, has expressed his admiration for Winger, acknowledging the implications of marrying her from the beginning.

The birth of their son revealed to Howard the unique combination of humor and allure that Winger possessed. Amid her contractions, Winger noticed a group of onlookers peeking through a partially opened door and wittily commented, "In or out, in or out."

Howard came to appreciate that Winger's humor intensified in challenging situations, stating, "And there's nothing sexier than a truly, deeply funny woman."


Debra Winger's journey through Hollywood and her personal life showcases her ability to balance her career and family while maintaining her distinct presence and charm in the entertainment industry.

Over their twenty-year relationship, Debra Winger and Arliss Howard have faced their share of challenges. Some days, they didn't even feel married, but they managed to work through their differences by consistently communicating with each other.

Winger admits that she's not always easy to live with, and she appreciates her family's reminders to lighten up and enjoy life.


The accomplished actress credits her husband as "the greatest partner in the world." When asked about the secret to their successful relationship, Howard emphasized his commitment to "sticking" with her, no matter what.

Not only is he a loving and supportive partner, but he's also an attentive father and a helpful presence around the house.


Winger has embraced the natural changes in her appearance, gladly trading her signature brunette locks for graceful gray hair. Her husband's daily compliments make her feel fortunate, as he constantly reassures her that she looks fantastic.

Fans and colleagues alike have also embraced Winger's new look, frequently praising her on social media whenever she shares an update.

Beth Riesgraf compliments Debra Winger's gray locks. | Source: Instagram.com/wingerdebra

Beth Riesgraf compliments Debra Winger's gray locks. | Source: Instagram.com/wingerdebra

A fan compliments Debra Winger's gray locks. | Source: Instagram.com/wingerdebra

A fan compliments Debra Winger's gray locks. | Source: Instagram.com/wingerdebra


Winger is a devoted, nurturing mother, which her son Noah acknowledges by describing her as "a very good, very thoughtful mother." He recognizes the sacrifices she made to balance her work and motherly responsibilities when her children were young.

Winger is her children's biggest fan and demonstrates her support by promoting Noah's documentary on her Instagram page. Despite her hands-on approach to motherhood, Winger has occasionally indulged in activities she enjoys, such as considering a trip to Las Vegas's famous Strip with her children during downtime on a film set.


When she consulted her travel agent about the idea, the agent candidly described a potentially awkward encounter with three provocatively dressed women on an elevator in a kid-friendly hotel. The travel agent gave her and said: "So, you're on an elevator at one of the kid-friendly hotels and then three, um, women step onto the elevator with your sons."

Upon hearing the agent's scenario, Winger decided against pursuing her Las Vegas plan, exclaiming, "Okay, we're going to Henderson!"


Her Life at 67

Debra Winger, decades into her career, remains a devoted mother to her children. Her youngest son, Babe, once shared on Instagram one of her caring lines: "Please try and eat something balanced tonight."

The actress cherishes opportunities to spend time with her family, participating in activities such as hiking. Even on her own, Winger enjoys immersing herself in nature, with Central Park being one of her favorite destinations.

Winger continues to reside on her farm in New York, where she diligently tends to the land herself, handling tasks such as planting, watering, and working in the dirt. Recently, she has invested time and effort into transitioning the farm to solar energy.


When not occupied with her farm, Winger dedicates her time to acting, appearing in movies and her Netflix show, "The Ranch." Similar to her discerning approach to roles during the 1980s, Winger remains selective about the projects she accepts today. She seeks out work that genuinely excites her, stating,

"I'm still looking to get my hands on something that feels like I'm flying. In a play, you can feel that in the moment. In a movie, you can still feel it between action and cut."

As her life has evolved over the years, one constant remains: Debra Winger's commitment to living life on her own terms. The celebrated actress has forged a career and a personal life defined by authenticity, rawness, and an unapologetic dedication to being true to herself.


The information in this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, and images contained on WomanlyLive.com, or available through WomanlyLive.com is for general information purposes only. WomanlyLive.com does not take responsibility for any action taken as a result of reading this article. Before undertaking any course of treatment please consult with your healthcare provider.

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