For 15 years Debra Winger was Hollywood's golden girl. Then, in the early '90s, the three-time Oscar nominee all but vanished, explaining later, "I love the work and don't much care for the business." Living near Manhattan and in Upstate New York, she devoted her time to sons Noah, now 21, whose father is her ex-husband Timothy Hutton, and Babe, 11, the product of her marriage to current husband Arliss Howard. For a few years she home-schooled the boys; she also worked with charities, including Sightsavers. Now, cautiously, the woman who hated celebrity's intrusion is emerging once more. She has a memoir, Undiscovered, out this month, though it's not a tell-all ("I reserve the right to do that," she says, laughing, "when I really, really need the bread"). And she'll appear in a movie, Rachel Getting Married, this fall. "I've come around a bend," says Winger, 53. "I've been out there a dozen years, and I think what's interesting is the story I have to tell. I may not get a chance, I don't know."

One thing's certain: She says she's never had plastic surgery and won't now. "There's too much time and money spent on it. They should have a bucket out there in L.A.: If you're tempted, just put your money in this bucket instead, and all those causes you love—we'll just send it."

Whatever her future holds, she has no regrets. "I didn't walk away from anything as far as I saw it—I walked toward something," she says. "A big life."