Mary Elizabeth Winstead

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Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Mary Elizabeth Winstead by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Winstead at the San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2010
Born(1984-11-28) November 28, 1984 (age 29)
Rocky Mount, North Carolina, United States
Years active1997–present
Spouse(s)Riley Stearns (m. 2010)
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This article is about the actress. For the comedienne, see Lizz Winstead.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Mary Elizabeth Winstead by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Winstead at the San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2010
Born(1984-11-28) November 28, 1984 (age 29)
Rocky Mount, North Carolina, United States
Years active1997–present
Spouse(s)Riley Stearns (m. 2010)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead (born November 28, 1984) is an American actress and recording artist. Winstead is known for her scream queen roles in the horror films: Final Destination 3, Death Proof, The Thing, and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but has also branched out to other genres, including as John McClane's daughter Lucy in Live Free or Die Hard and A Good Day to Die Hard, Ramona Flowers in the comic-to-film adaptation of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and as an alcoholic who struggles through sobriety in the Sundance-selected drama Smashed.

Her singing career started in 2013, with her album collaboration with Dan the Automator.

Early life[edit]

The youngest of five children[1] of James Ronald and Betty Lou (née Knight) Winstead, Winstead was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.[2][3] Winstead has stated that her maternal grandfather was a cousin of actress Ava Gardner.[4] Winstead was only five years old when her family moved to Sandy, Utah, a Salt Lake City suburb.[3][5] As a girl, Winstead attended Peruvian Park Elementary, where she excelled academically and attended advanced classes.[5] A talented dancer and singer, Winstead studied dance in a Joffrey Ballet summer program in Chicago, Illinois[5] and was also a member of the International Children's Choir.[6] During her youth, Winstead initially hoped to pursue a career as a ballerina and appeared in local ballet productions.[5] As she entered her teens Winstead was forced to quit ballet due to her height. She later stated "I realized pretty early on that I was already too tall by the time I was 13... You know, your body has to stay that way for your entire life, and it's pretty hard on your muscles and your bones".[3] Realizing that her career as a ballerina was unlikely, Winstead turned to acting instead.[3]

Acting career[edit]

Early work[edit]

After leaving ballet to pursue an acting career, Winstead first appeared on Broadway during Donny Osmond's successful run of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.[7] After her brief performance in Broadway, Winstead began making appearances in various television series and earned guest roles in Touched by an Angel and Promised Land. She gained her first major role when she was cast as Jessica Bennett in the NBC soap opera series Passions. Winstead was a series regular and held the role from 1999 to 2000 before leaving to pursue other interests. Winstead later stated, "I really had one of the smallest roles on Passions, so I didn't get too involved... I was able to leave pretty easily".[8] After leaving Passions, Winstead's next significant television role was in the short-lived CBS drama series Wolf Lake (2001–002), where she portrayed the daughter of Tim Matheson's character.[9] The series lasted ten episodes before being cancelled. In 2004 Winstead played a supporting role in MTV's made-for-television film Monster Island. In 2005 Winstead played a minor role in the indie comedy Checking Out. Winstead gained a much larger role later that year as the main antagonist of the Walt Disney Pictures film Sky High. The film, also starring Michael Angarano, Danielle Panabaker, Kurt Russell, Kelly Preston, and Bruce Campbell, was well-received by critics, holding a 73% on Rotten Tomatoes,[10] and fared well at the box office.[11]

Breakthrough (2006–2008)[edit]

Winstead at the 2006 Comic-Con International, promoting the film Grindhouse

After her appearance in Sky High, Winstead began to work with horror producers James Wong and Glen Morgan, previously known for their contributions to The X-Files. Their collaboration began when Winstead starred in Final Destination 3 as lead character Wendy Christensen alongside Ryan Merriman.[12] The film did well at the box office[13] but received mixed reviews from critics and holds a rating of 45% on Rotten Tomatoes.[14] Winstead also co-starred with Chelan Simmons, having first appeared with her in the 2004 MTV film Monster Island.

Winstead's next appearance was in the slasher-film Black Christmas, where she once again collaborated with Morgan and Wong, as well as Crystal Lowe, whom she co-starred with in Final Destination 3. Black Christmas fared poorly with critics,[15] but earned her a nomination for Scream Queen at the 2007 Scream Awards. Winstead inadvertently received a chance to lampoon horror scream queens when Tonight Show host Jay Leno, unaware of who she was, knocked on her front door and included her in a comedy segment spoofing horror films.[16]

That same year, she appeared in Emilio Estevez's Bobby, a biopic depicting the last hours in the life of Robert F. Kennedy.[17] Winstead became interested in Bobby after learning that Anthony Hopkins would also appear in the film.[17] The movie boasted an ensemble cast, also including other heavyweights such as Shia LaBeouf, Harry Belafonte, Lindsay Lohan, Demi Moore, William H. Macy, Ashton Kutcher, Christian Slater and Sharon Stone. Bobby received mixed reviews[18] with many criticisms directed at the film's script.[19] She and her co-stars were nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Cast in a Motion Picture but won the Hollywood Film Festival Award for Best Ensemble Cast.[20]

In 2007, Winstead appeared in a pair of high-profile event films. Quentin Tarantino cast her as a well-intentioned but vapid and naïve actress in his high-speed segment of Grindhouse called Death Proof,[21] his half of a double-billed feature. Death Proof is the second film to feature Winstead with Kurt Russell (the first being Sky High), although Winstead only filmed scenes with Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms and stuntwoman Zoë Bell. Grindhouse opened to positive reviews[22] but performed poorly at the box office.[23]

Winstead won the part of John McClane's estranged daughter Lucy in Live Free or Die Hard, beating out other candidates for the role including Jessica Simpson.[1] The fourth film of the installment saw her co-starring alongside Bruce Willis, Justin Long and Timothy Olyphant, and was financially and critically acclaimed.[24][25]

Winstead at the premiere of Grindhouse in Austin, Texas, March 2007

In 2008, Winstead screen-tested for the role of Wonder Woman in the film adaption of Justice League.[26] She starred in a lead role in Make It Happen, a dance film.[27] The film went straight to DVD in the US, and fared poorly upon release in the UK, which eventually led to its financial failure. Nevertheless, the film proved a delight for Winstead to shoot, as she had always dreamed about becoming a dancer. Critics agreed that the film's biggest and most universally-agreed asset was Winstead. Reviewer Mike Martin says, "Winstead infuses every moment with an amazing amount of charm".[28] Matthew Turner of ViewLondon even goes to say that Winstead "compensates for the generally poor direction."[29]

Rise to fame (2010–2011)[edit]

In 2010, Winstead co-starred opposite Michael Cera in the comic-book adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, under the direction of Edgar Wright.[30] The film sported an ensemble cast that includes Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Anna Kendrick, Jason Schwartzman, Kieran Culkin, Aubrey Plaza and Johnny Simmons. Filming occurred from March[31] to August 2009.[32] For her role, Winstead went through fight training for two months and performed most of her own stunts.[33] The film was released in 2010 to critical acclaim but lackluster box office returns, though it did considerably well once released to DVD. Winstead's performance was received generally well, and snagged her a Teen Choice Awards nomination for Choice Actress Action.[34]

In February 2010, Winstead was cast in the lead role as paleontologist Dr. Kate Loyd in the prequel to The Thing, which was directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. The movie was released October 14, 2011.[35][36] Winstead stated that there was no romantic subplot for her character as she felt it would be out of place in the context of the film.[37] Winstead based her performance on her sister, a neurologist.[38] Critics singled out Winstead for praise in her performance as the lead. "[Winstead] stands out with her portrayal of a paleontologist. She keeps a cool, logical head whilst others around her start to panic. It’s a refreshing change from your traditional horror film where the lead characters do moronic things as if to prolong the story", Matthew Toomey of The Film Pie wrote.[39] Josh Bell of Las Vegas Weekly wrote, "Winstead makes for an appealing protagonist, and Kate is portrayed as competent without being thrust into some unlikely action-hero role".[40]

Winstead tested to be the female lead in the Spider-Man reboot[41][42][43] and the lead opposite Matt Damon in We Bought a Zoo, a film adaptation of Benjamin Mee's autobiographical novel of the same name,[44][45] although she was not chosen in either case, losing out to Emma Stone and Scarlett Johansson, respectively.[46][47]

On February 17, 2011, it was confirmed that Winstead had been chosen to play the role of Mary Todd Lincoln, alongside Benjamin Walker, in the film adaption of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.[48] The film was directed by Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov[49] and released in summer 2012 to mixed reviews,[50] but critics praised Winstead's performance. Randy Myers of San Jose Mercury News calls Winstead "a standout",[51] whereas Chuck Koplinski of Illinois Times says, "Winstead humanizes Mary [Todd Lincoln] by giving her a fiery wit and sense of resolve in the face of considerable adversity".[52] Winstead has also been commended for scenes with opposite Benjamin Walker, with reviewer Martin Conterio of Little White Lies saying they share "a sweet chemistry that gives their handful of scenes an endearing warmth".[53]

Winstead was also a potential candidate for the role of Maria Hill in Joss Whedon's The Avengers film, losing out to Cobie Smulders.[54]

Indie-film route (2012–present)[edit]

"It's something I've been trying to do for years and years [...] It's almost like my first movie in a weird way, cause it's my first movie in this world, which is a world I've been trying to break into. [I've wanted] to be around filmmakers that are trying new things [sic] and not part of the system, so to speak, and they're doing things on their own terms."

— Winstead with on her lead role in the indie-film Smashed.[55]

On September 21 the same year, it was reported that Winstead would star opposite Aaron Paul in Smashed, an independent film directed by James Ponsoldt. The film "centers on a married couple (Winstead and Paul) who can only find a connection through alcohol. Their marriage takes an unusual turn when the wife decides to get sober".[56] According to Winstead, the film took a mere 19 days of shooting.[57] The 91-minute film was screened during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.[58] Upon release, Winstead's performance earned her rave reviews by critics,[59] with Chris Bumbray of calling it "[...] the type of performance that could be Award-worthy if given the right kind of build-up by whichever studio picks it up".[60] The film itself took home the 2012 Sundance Film Festival award for U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Prize for Excellence in Independent Film Producing.[61] On February 5, 2012, The Wrap reported that Sony Pictures Classics acquired the film's rights.[62][63] The film was released on October 12, 2012.[64][65]

On October 28, 2011, it was reported that Winstead was cast in Roman Coppola's A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III. The film, due for release in February 2013,[66][67] will see her reuniting with Jason Schwartzman and Aubrey Plaza after their collaboration on Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. She will also be co-starring alongside Charlie Sheen, Bill Murray, Katheryn Winnick and Maxine Bahns.[68] According to Coppola's interview with Entertainment Weekly in late August, he revealed that Winstead will be playing "the best friend of [Charlie Sheen's] girlfriend who just broke up with him. She is not so supportive of their relationship."[67]

On March 1, 2012, reported that Winstead has joined the Stuart Zicherman comedy A.C.O.D.. Her co-stars include Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Jane Lynch, Jessica Alba, Clark Duke, Amy Poehler and Catherine O'Hara. She will be playing the role of Lauren Stinger, "long-time girlfriend of Carter (Scott) and the rock in his increasingly chaotic life."[69] The film was met with a limited release in December 2013, and opened to lackluster boxoffice collections and divided critical response. The writing received much of the brunt, however the ensemble cast was mostly praised by the critics. Winstead was singled out by Michael O’Sullivan of Washington Post, who says “Winstead brings surprising depth to a small role, in which she has little to do except wait for her boyfriend to grow up, or to at least let go of his cynicism about love.”[70] Geoff Berkshire of Variety also praised Winstead’s acting, saying “Winstead [elevates] a thankless girlfriend role with intelligence and warmth”.[71] Ben Kendrick of ScreenRant also says “[Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Jessica Alba also deliver in their contributions – though both of their characters are mainly designed to be mirrors for Carter to examine his own life and choices.”[72]

The script and runtime were condemned for not allowing the stars to shine in their respective roles. Daniel Finberg says, “it leaves a lot of very talented people scrambling to make moments with limited screentime. Winstead gets to be sweet and lovely, but little more.”[73] In his negative write-up, Steve Persall comments, “A.C.O.D. is a busy movie for one running under 90 minutes, [...] and poor Mary Elizabeth Winstead wasted in the wings as Carter’s patient girlfriend.”[74]

On July 25, 2012, it was reported that Winstead and Topher Grace are cast in The Beauty Inside, a project dubbed an "interactive social film". The film is broken up into six filmed episodes interspersed with interactive storytelling that all takes place on the main character's Facebook timeline. The main character, Alex, wakes up every day with a different appearance; Winstead plays the role of Leah, a woman whom Alex falls in love with. The web series acts as a campaign by Intel and Toshiba; The first episode airs online on August 16 and the project wrapped up on September 20, with Drake Doremus acting as director.[75][76]

On August 2, 2012, announced that Winstead would be continuing the indie-film route with Ponsoldt's latest film, The Spectacular Now (2013): Winstead co-starred alongside Brie Larson (whom she also co-starred with in Scott Pilgrim), Miles Teller, Kyle Chandler, Bob Odenkirk and Shailene Woodley. The film was based on the novel of the same name by Tim Tharp, and followed "a high school senior (Teller) and the mercurial introvert he attempts to "save" from life as a social outcast (Woodley)."[77]

Winstead had expressed interest in returning as Lucy McClane for a fifth installment of the Die Hard film series.[78][79] She reprised her role in the fifth film, A Good Day to Die Hard; the character only appeared for a few minutes, and she shot her scenes in one day.[57][80][81] Winstead stated in an interview with Yahoo! that she was not expecting another sequel but "[had fun reprising] the father-daughter rapport."[82]

On October 12, it was revealed that Winstead is Marvel's top choice for the role of Sharon Carter in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.[83][84][85] However, there is no further confirmation on whether Winstead has secured the role as she has recently stated that she has no interest to appear in blockbuster films. The role of Sharon Carter was eventually given to Emily VanCamp.[86]

In summer 2013, it was reported by Showbiz411 that Winstead has been cast in the lead role in a film project to be directed by Chris Messina, and penned by Jessica Strong based on characters created by Katie Nehry and Justin Shilton. She will be co-starring alongside Troy Garity, Derek Luke and Don Johnson.[87] Winstead will be playing "an environmental lawyer who is left to raise her 12-year-old son alone after her husband bolts." Further information, including title, has not yet been released.[88]

On June 18, The Wrap revealed that Winstead is also co-starring alongside Logan Marshall Green in the Cinemax drama pilot, Quarry. The project, set in 1970's, is based loosely on a series of books by Max Allen Collins, with John Hillcoat directing.[89]

On July 1, Winstead was also reported by Deadline to star in Stearns' upcoming feature film Faults.[88]

On July 16, Deadline also reports that Winstead was cast alongside Jeremy Renner and Rosemarie DeWitt in Kill the Messenger, directed by Michael Cuesta. The thriller tells the true story of investigative journalist Gary Webb. Winstead will be playing the role of Dawn Garcia, the editor of the San Jose Mercury News, where Webb worked.[90] The film will get a platform release on October 10 2014, and expand the following two weekends.[91]

In March 2014, Winstead was reported to have been cast as the lead of ABC's drama pilot Exposed. Winstead will play Anna, "an investigative journalist who will stop at nothing to uncover the truth, including making questionable alliances."[92]

Singing career[edit]

Winstead has expressed her interest in singing, but initially did not plan on pursuing it as a career. "I wasn't ever really going to be a singer, but it's just something I've always loved."[93] For her part of the Grindhouse film, Tarantino had Winstead sing an a cappella cover of The Shirelles' hit recording "Baby It's You".[94] She was asked impromptu to perform the song and the cast were reportedly "gob-smacked" by her singing.

In 2009, Winstead and music producer Thai Long Ly co-wrote a song, "Warmth of Him".[95] Although first rumored to be a pre-release single, Winstead has since then confirmed that she was just exploring her interest and does not plan on releasing any music albums.

"We did a song together, and then one song kind of turned into five, and then we just decided to make an album out of it. So we’re currently working on it, going at our own pace, and not putting too much pressure on ourselves."

— Discussing her forthcoming music album with Complex Magazine.[96]

In an interview with Complex for the June/July 2012 issue, Winstead revealed she was working with Dan the Automator and is indeed planning on releasing a music album. "The inspiration behind it is, like, French ’60s pop—Jane Birkin, and stuff like that. It’s kind of married with Dan’s sensibility, which is his beats and a little bit of that low-key hip-hop vibe. So it makes for something that’s very unique; it’s very lounge-y and light. It's got a little bit of a French quality," Winstead discloses.[96]

In summer 2013, Winstead and collaborator Dan the Automator formed the band Got a Girl, and released their first single “You & Me” on May 21.[97] The album is set for release in January 2014 via EMI.[98]

Winstead is featured on the songs "The Agony" and "Look Across The Sky" from Deltron 3030's second studio album Event 2 released on September 30, 2013.

Personal life[edit]

Winstead is married to Riley Stearns, a film director and television writer from Austin, Texas,[99] whom she met at age 18, while on a cruise. The couple were wed in 2010.[100]

Winstead had stated that at one point, Final Destination 3 co-star Amanda Crew "stayed with [her] for a while". She has also called Lacey Chabert her "confidant" and in the same interview, says she is good friends with Death Proof co-stars Rosario Dawson and Sydney Tamiia Poitier. "I'm not a really 'cliquish' type of person," she says of herself. "There's usually one person that I gravitate to, who I feel I relate to the most, and kind of stick to throughout the whole thing."[3] While filming Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Winstead made good friends with co-star Anna Kendrick. “The two of us, we were just sitting up there watching the first fight [scene] in the balcony together for a week and a half, and we were always talking about gossip, film news and just gabbing about everything!”[101]

Winstead has voiced her fondness for the music of Bat for Lashes, French pop songs (particularly France Gall), mewithoutYou, The Shangri-Las, The Shirelles, Roy Orbison, The xx and Ben E. King's "Stand By Me".[100] Winstead has also said that she is "a big fan of horror films [...] There’s always something to be excited about and get invested in. Some of the first horror films I saw were The Shining, Alien and Rosemary’s Baby, which have become three of my favorite films ever."[102] In an interview with Public Radio in October 2012, she also lists Citizen Ruth, Fish Tank and Wendy and Lucy as some of her other favorite films that manage to entertain despite dealing with a tough subject.[103]

Winstead starred in Stearns' debut feature film, Faults, scheduled to start shooting late 2013.[88]



2005Ring Two, TheThe Ring TwoYoung EvelynOnly in unrated version
2005Checking OutLisa Apple
2005Sky HighGwendolyn 'Gwen' Grayson
2006Final Destination 3Wendy Christensen
2006BobbySusan Taylor
2006Factory GirlIngrid Superstar
2006Black ChristmasHeather Lee-Fitzgerald
2007Grindhouse: Death ProofLee Montgomery
2007Live Free or Die HardLucy Gennero-McClane
2008Make It HappenLauryn Kirk
2010Scott Pilgrim vs. the World[104]Ramona Flowers
2011Thing, TheThe Thing[35]Dr. Kate Lloyd
2012Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter[48]Mary Todd Lincoln
2012Smashed[56]Kate Hannah
2013Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, AA Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III[68]Kate
2013Good Day to Die Hard, AA Good Day to Die Hard[57][80][81]Lucy Gennero-McClaneOnly in theatrical version
2013A.C.O.D.[69]Lauren Stinger
2013The Spectacular Now[77]Holly Keely
2014Alex of Venice[87][105]Alex
2014Kill the Messenger[90]Dawn GarciaPost-production

TV and other videos[edit]

TV & Other videos
1997Touched by an AngelKristy1 episode: "A Delicate Balance"
1998Promised LandChloe2 episodes: "Welcome Home", "Recycled"
1999PassionsJessica Bennett
1999Long Road Home, TheThe Long Road HomeAnnie JacobsTV movie
2000Father Can't CopeTaraTV movie
2001Wolf LakeSophia Donner
2003Then Came JonesRinaTV movie
2004Monster IslandMadisonTV movie
2004Tru CallingBridget Elkins1 episode: "Closure"
2010"Love Your Flawz" by Caitlin Crosby[106]Music video
2011Showing UpHerselfDocumentary
2011MagnificatLynnShort; also executive producer[107]
2011Cost of LivingThe Computer (voice)Short
2012The Beauty InsideLeahShort web series
2012The CubShort; executive producer

Awards and nominations[edit]

2000Young Artist AwardBest Young Actress in a Daytime TV SeriesPassionsNominated
2001Young Artist AwardBest Young Actress in a Daytime TV SeriesPassionsNominated
2006Hollywood Film FestivalBest Ensemble Cast (shared with cast)BobbyWon
2006Broadcast Film Critics Association AwardBest CastBobbyNominated
2006Screen Actors Guild AwardOutstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion PictureBobbyNominated
2006Scream AwardScream QueenBlack ChristmasNominated
2010IGN Movie AwardBest Ensemble CastScott Pilgrim vs. the WorldNominated
2010Teen Choice AwardsChoice Actress ActionScott Pilgrim vs. the WorldNominated
2012Independent Spirit AwardBest Female LeadSmashedNominated
2012Phoenix Film Critics Society AwardBest ActressSmashedNominated
2013Dallas International Film FestivalShining Star Award for Best ActressSmashedWon
2013Daytime Emmy AwardOutstanding New Approaches Original Daytime Program or Series (shared with cast & crew)The Beauty InsideWon

See also[edit]


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  52. ^ Lincoln delivers bloody alternate history lesson
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  74. ^ Review: A.C.O.D. is big on dysfunction, short on laughs | Things to do in Tampa Bay | Tampa Bay Times
  75. ^ Mary Elizabeth Winstead & Topher Grace Star In Drake Doremus-Directed Campaign For Intel & Toshiba 'The Beauty Inside' | The Playlist"
  76. ^ Topher Grace News - Join Topher Grace, Matthew Gray Gubler and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in New Film 'The Beauty Inside' as its Next Star (VIDEO) - Celebuzz
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