Portraying the iconic role Amanda Grayson, Spock's human mother and Sarek's first human wife in the upcoming new "Star Trek" movie by J.J. Abrams, is yet another in series of "out there" characters for Winona Ryder — already a 21-year film veteran at the age of 36.

Ryder was launched to stardom in 1988 as Lydia, the clear-eyed Goth girl back when the concept was fresh, in Tim Burton's "Beetle Juice" with Michael Keaton. She later had an Academy Award nomination as Jo in the 1994 version of "Little Women." Another Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe win followed the next year for the role of May Welland in "The Age of Innocence," the role director Martin Scorsese offered her after she had to back out of playing Mary Carleone due to the flu in his "Godfather, Part III." A Grammy nomination followed for her spoken recordings of the "Diary of Anne Frank." Other film credits of note include "Great Balls of Fire," "Heathers," "Mermaids," "Edward Scissorhands," "Bram Stoker's Dracula," "Reality Bites," "Girl, Interrupted," "The Crucible," "Aliens: Resurrection," and "A Scanner Darkly."

Ryder was named for her birthplace of Winona, Minn., on Oct. 29, 1971, and her family name is actually "Horowitz": she came up with the stage name at 15, when she was called on the phone to get her billing in her first major film, "Lucas," and took it from her father's Mitch Ryder album playing in the background at the time. Growing up with free-spirited parents in the 1960s-70s counterculture culture, she was the goddaughter of Timothy Leary and began attending acting classes at the American Conservatory Theater at 10, graduating from high school in Petaluma near San Francisco with a 4.0 average.

Ryder has always had a certain rapport with musicians and has even appeared in a handful of music videos. Although she's dated several musicians, as well as actors such as Johnny Depp, Ryder has yet to marry. Tabloids swarmed over an infamous shoplifting conviction in 2002, but after serving community service probation and fines Ryder has regained her career momentum and has a slew of films announced in recent years, including the upcoming "The Informers" and "The Last Word" along with "Star Trek." Her oft-cited favorite book is J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye," and she is a strong proponent of the Polly Klaas Foundation in the aid of missing children.