Why Johnny Depp And Winona Ryder Broke Off Their Engagement

Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder were two of young Hollywood's biggest stars as the 1980s turned into the 1990s. According to People, the two met in Los Angeles when Ryder was 18 and Depp was 26, and things got steamy between the them quickly, both on-screen and off. The couple went on to star in "Edward Scissorhands" together and, within six months of meeting, they were engaged. Depp's infamous "WINONA FOREVER" bicep tattoo commemorated their ephemeral love.

Romances that burn bright and flame out fast are not exactly a rarity in Hollywood. Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson, Katy Perry and Russell Brand, Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries ... plenty of celebs have made big commitments and thought about the consequences after. Ryder and Depp were a different case, however. Despite the quick engagement, the pair had a long courtship; so long, in fact, that the marriage never actually came to be. The two remained together for another three years, but eventually broke it off before they could ever make it down the aisle. So what happened?

Winona Ryder and Johnny Depp received too much attention

As it turns out, being the "it" couple of the moment carried a ton of pressure. By the time Winona Ryder and Johnny Depp got engaged, they had both heard that a million times, so in an attempt to avoid the invasive eye of the paparazzi, they adopted a different strategy — one of truth and openness. However, after the relationship ended, it was clear they had made a mistake.

"It's very hard to have a personal life in this town," Depp told the Los Angeles Times after their split in 1993. "My relationship with Winona, it was my mistake to be as open as we were, but I thought if we were honest it would destroy that curiosity monster." Not a bad idea, but it ultimately garnered negative results. "Instead it fed it, gave people license to feel they were part of it," Depp explained. 

While we will never know what happened between them in private, the public's demand for the intimate details of their life together didn't do their relationship any favors. The two still seem to respect each other, however. Ryder spoke up on Depp's behalf in 2020 after ex-wife Amber Heard claimed he was abusive. As for the tattoo? Now it says "WINO FOREVER."

Winona Ryder shared her side of the breakup

Being one of the most famous young couples of all time can make it difficult to move on when the world is so invested in the relationship. Luckily, Winona Ryder has had clarity looking back at her time with Johnny Depp, noting it was her "first real relationship" and "a fiercely deep love." The actor told Cinema.com about the split, "I was very depressed after breaking off my engagement with Johnny ... I was embarrassingly dramatic at the time, but you have to remember I was only 19 years old."

Ryder also mentioned the added pressures of being in the spotlight. Her later experiences dating such high-profile stars like Christian Slater and Matt Damon also confirmed the odd, yet necessary, rituals and challenges to simply see one another. "You learn to always leave separately, to go places separately, to live like a spy," she told Cinema.com. Echoing Depp with a similar takeaway from the time, Ryder stated, "And you also learn to never talk about it."

The "Stranger Things" star never married, but has had luck in love. She's been dating fashion designer Scott Mackinlay Hahn since 2011, but has no interest in rushing things. She revealed to The Edit (via ET) that her high level of expectations stem from having parents with a seemingly blissful relationship. "I'd rather never have been married than divorced a few times," she told the publication.

Tim Burton witnessed Johnny Depp's heartbreak

Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder's split was huge for the young actors, but they still had to go on acting through heartache. The pair had the opportunity of starring alongside one another in "Edward Scissorhands" in roles that were perfectly timed with their real-life relationship. "The fact that we're together and we're in love certainly won't hurt the movie," Depp happily told Movieline at the time. He declared, "In a perfect world, I'd just do movies with Winona, John Waters, and Tim Burton, and live happily ever after."

His working relationship with Burton continued with great success as their collaborations resulted in more iconic performances in films like "Sleepy Hollow," "Sweeney Todd," and "Alice in Wonderland." It was during the filming of Burton's "Ed Wood," however, that Depp had to cope with his split from Ryder. The director — who had become very close with the couple — revealed that his leading man was devastated to tears when he would come to set. According to the Mirror U.K., Burton reportedly said, "I felt so bad ... I felt weird to be around him like he wasn't acting like Johnny anymore." He added, "It's almost like Winona took Johnny's soul, Johnny's love." 

Decades later and the world is looking at a very different relationship for Depp. If a career comeback is in the future for the actor, perhaps he can reunite with Burton and Ryder in that whispered "Beetlejuice" sequel that never seems to take flight.