05/09/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT
Reality bites. Winona Ryder digs right in. "She would sit in her trailer," recalls her Bites
costar, Janeane Garofalo, "and eat every kind of junk food and drink Coca-Cola. She doesn't try to glam up." Nobody minds. Hair shorn haphazardly, brown eyes blazing, she's Generation X's hottest property and a winsome departure from such sultry screen sisters as Sharon Stone and Michelle Pfeiffer. Ex-beau Johnny Depp
may have the only "Winona Forever" tattoo, but men by the mile carry torches for the 22-year-old actress. "Every guy I've ever talked to has a crush on her," noted Ben Stiller, who directed and costarred in Reality Bites
. Added Garofalo: "Winona's the poster girl of every Trekkie, every computer nerd...athletes too. She's so gorgeous that she crosses over." Equally appealing is her compassion. When 12-year-old Polly Klaas was abducted last October from the actress's hometown of Petaluma, Calif., Ryder offered a $200,000 reward and joined the search parties herself. (Klaas was found murdered on Dec. 4.) Now, moving from The Age of Innocence
to a more innocent age, Ryder will star as Jo in the upcoming Little Women
. Splitting her time between a Manhattan apartment and her Beverly Hills home—and sharing cooking duty with current love, Soul Asylum singer David Pirner—Ryder doesn't worry about whither beauty. "I look at older women," she said recently, "and it's like every line tells a story. That can be beautiful."