Or maybe that shoplifting incident in 2001, after which she was ordered to undergo psychological and drug counselling and then took time off from her career, has overshadowed the excellent work she has done since: her portrayal of the embittered, ageing ballerina in Black Swan and the cheating wife in The Dilemma.
Either way, with a role as a mysterious financial PR in David Hare’s new BBC political thriller, Turks & Caicos, alongside Christopher Walken, Bill Nighy and Helena Bonham Carter, Ryder’s bemused by talk of a comeback.
“I think it’s sad the way we treat older people here.” Ryder’s unconventional childhood has been exhaustively documented and occasionally used to explain the more disturbing events in her life, but the actress – christened Winona Laura Horowitz and named after the Minnesota city in which she was born – speaks fondly of the four years she spent in a commune in Elk, Northern California, from the age of seven. We were in 380 acres of redwoods and there was no electricity.” Ryder started acting at 12, once her parents – bohemian intellectuals who were friends with the author Aldous Huxley, the beat poet Allen Ginsberg and LSD proselytiser Timothy Leary – moved to the nearby city of Petaluma.
Any resentment she does harbour towards them is for setting too good an example of what marriage could be, she says.
In full make-up from Stella’s photo-shoot, Ryder somehow manages to look more like a teenager who’s ransacked her mother’s cosmetics drawer than a 42-year-old actress with two Oscar nominations under her belt.
“It was hard to find that transition to adult roles,” she concedes.
She’s fascinated by constitutional law and sat in on a handful of lectures at Berkeley College.
Speaking to his host, the former Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones, Depp said while he enjoyed the process of acting and preparing for roles, he did not like the press attention which followed.
Something about the actress draws you in from the outset, making you want to befriend and protect her – both uncomfortable sensations for an interviewer.
She talks in open-ended sentences, dipping in and out of whispers and veering off on tangents.
It was to San Francisco that she escaped when she took what we both diplomatically refer to throughout the interview – Ryder drawing inverted commas in the air – as her “hiatus”.
Her parents had lived there for years (they subsequently moved to Canada after George W Bush was re-elected) and she wanted “to take a break, be home for a while and explore some other interests that I would have explored if I hadn’t become an actress”.