At the peak of her career, Debra Winger was a master at portraying complicated relationships on the big screen. She had an on-again-off-again relationship with John Travolta in Urban Cowboy, she was the townie who romanced the Naval officer in training Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman, and she dealt with infidelity and cancer in Terms of Endearment. Though she has one failed marriage under her belt, the actress has been happily married to actor/director Arliss Howard since 1996. In fact, she really shocked the world when she decided to walk away from Hollywood, after three Academy Award nominations, and focus on her marriage and family.
Winger and Howard met on the set of the 1993 film Wilder Napalm. Winger had been divorced from actor Timothy Hutton for a few years and Howard had split from his first wife, talent agent Karen Sellars. Both actors had a son from their previous relationships — Sam Howard and Noah Hutton. The year after tying the knot, the couple also welcomed a son of their own, Gideon Babe Ruth Howard (who goes by Babe).
Howard has a lengthy filmography, known for appearing in films and TV shows like Natural Born Killers, Ruby, Big Bad Love, Tequila Sunrise, Dawn Anna, Moneyball, The Time Traveler's Wife, Rubicon, Somebody Has to Shoot the Picture, I Know My First Name Is Steven, Men Don't Leave, Beyond the Call, Old Man, Amistad, Dandelion, For the Boys, Hands of a Stranger, The Infiltrator, Manhunt: Deadly Games, Sandlot, The Day After, The Lesser Evil, Till Death Us Do Part, The Man Who Captured Eichmann, The Lightship, and You Know My Name. The Independence, Missouri native was the villain Peter Ludlow in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Louis B. Mayer in the Oscar-winning Mank, Truman Burrell in season 6 of True Blood, Sergeant 'Cowboy' Evans in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, Paul Reverdy in A Map of the World, Mikey's uncle in Weapons, Dr. Howard Archie in The Song of the Lark, and Nick Dunbar in Plain Clothes. He's literally one of those actors you've seen everywhere for years and just may not have realized it.
The couple moved up to New York for a time where Winger and Howard both appeared on Broadway. Howard starred in August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone and Winger was in the David Mamet play The Anarchist. They have since relocated back to Los Angeles and Winger has even started acting on screen again, most recently starring in the Netflix sitcom, The Ranch. Ultimately, she explained to PEOPLE that she has never really felt like she was a part of Hollywood.
"I don't know what Hollywood is. I'm living under the freaking sign now, and I just stare at it and laugh. Los Angeles is a place, but the idea of Hollywood doesn't really exist for me. Broadway is more of a family than Hollywood, although there must be some in-crowds that I just don't know about."
When asked what the secret is to her long marriage, Winger explained to TIME that you really have to continue making an effort...marriage is work so you have to continue evolving if you want to succeed.
"Anybody that would say anything about how they understand how to make love stay would have to be called a liar or misguided. We live in a universe that is based on impermanence. Anything that gets created gets destroyed. That's the whole definition of life. Nothing escapes change. So why do we think we could create such a permanent institution as marriage? It just seems inorganic if looked at that way. The intention is to stay awake, stay alive, keep loving, keep lit up, keep being able to light up the other one. Those are the real tricks. That and some pixie dust."
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