Winona Nabs First Big Role Since Trial

07/08/2003 01:00AM

Winona Ryder is getting back to the business of being a leading lady, having signed to play opposite Sean Connery and Klaus Maria Brandauer in "Embers" for director Milos Forman ("Amadeus"), according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The production, which is due to being shooting Oct. 8 in Prague, marks the first major film role for the "Girl, Interrupted" actress since her highly publicized trial last fall, when she was convicted of grand theft for shoplifting nearly $6,000 worth of merchandise from the Beverly Hills branch of Saks Fifth Avenue.

And there's more waiting in the wings for Ryder, 31: The Reporter notes that she is also scheduled to play the title role in "The Widow Claire" for director Robert Altman ("Gosford Park"), though financing for that film reportedly is not completely in place.

In "Embers," based on a novel by Hungarian author Sanor Mari, Connery and Brandauer play former best friends driven apart by a young woman, with much of the story told in flashback, according to the trade paper.

"Claire" is a World War II drama in which Ryder will portray a young widow being wooed by two men, a sweet soldier and the town playboy. Jake Gyllenhaal and Matthew McConaughey have reportedly discussed playing those roles.

Apparently, traveling abroad to appear in a movie would not violate the terms of Ryder's probation.

As PEOPLE.com reported in early April, Ryder appeared before Beverly Hills Superior Court Judge Elden Fox for a progress report on her sentence to three years' probation.

The jurist praised the actress for completing her 480 hours community service ahead of schedule, but he argued with her lawyer, Mark Geragos, over whether she could dispose of the stolen merchandise by holding a charity auction.
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