Birth name: Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Date of Birth: November 28, 1984
Birthplace: Rocky Mount, North Carolina, U.S.
Height: 5’8′ (1.73m)
Occupation: Actress, singer
Years Active: 1997–present
Mary Elizabeth Winstead was born on the 28th of November, 1984 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina to James Ronald Winstead and Betty Lou Knight. Mary is the youngest of five. She has three older sisters, one named Erin, and an older brother. One of her sisters is a professional dancer. In 1989, Mary and her family moved to Salt Lake City, Utah when she was just five years old. “It was somewhat difficult moving to Salt Lake City,” Mary said, “because we weren’t Mormon and that was quite predominantly a Mormon area. So it was really hard to sort of fit in and adjust to that new environment. Every now and then, I would get comments. People would say things like, ‘I wish you would convert, so you could be one of us, and we could all go to heaven.'” Mary attended Peruvian Park Elementary, where she was academically outstanding. She eventually reached the upper echelon of the schools advanced classes. At the same time, her performance skills also began to emerge with interests in ballet and acting.
During her childhood, Mary joined the International Children’s Choir. She polished and showed off her singing skills at the local church. Mary first opted to become a ballerina, “As a child, I acted and I loved acting but ballet was my heart’s career choice.” She later improved her ballerina skills when she appeared in the Mountain West Ballet’s version of The Nutcracker. She took part in the production every year, and played a different character each time. Her parents further encouraged and nurtured her skills.
At the age of eleven, Mary studied dance in a summer program of the prestigious Jeffrey Ballet School in New York City. There, she took dancing classes, studying the art of ballet and jazz. Nevertheless, she realizes later that she was not physically suitable to become a ballerina. “I just realized that it probably wasn’t going to go as far as I wanted to, just because I was really tall for my age and it’s such a precise career as far as physicality… you have to fit into this mold. I didn’t want to put myself through that. I realized that the thing I loved most about it was the performance and being able to act and play characters on stage so I figured why not just stick with that.” Following the epiphany, Mary took up acting lessons at the Jeffrey Ballet School.
In the early 1990s, Mary got her first inkling of acting. She received the opportunity to appear on Broadway in Donny Osmond’s run of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, alongside Donny Osmond himself, for over 2,000 performances. She started to sharpen her talents afterwards, and therefore began her career as an actress. During this time in show business, Mary found herself unable to attend normal schools, so she was instead home-schooled. “I acted in theater and I took film classes when I was 12. I loved it and spent hours and hours in the film studio learning and watching. I always knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. That is why I was home schooled. I was always busy, so normal school didn’t work out for me.”
In addition, some time in her childhood, Mary played the renowned role of Juliet in a production of Romeo and Juliet. She mentions it briefly in an interview later on in her life, “Olivia Hussey was one of the reasons I wanted to be an actress as a child because I did a school production of Romeo and Juliet and I watched her version of it everyday for almost a year and I just wanted to be her so she’s always been on my list of idols”.
Mary’s acting career wholly kicked off when she debuts in the prime time television show, Touched By An Angel. She appears in the role of Kristy Cordice, a competing gymnast, in the third season finale, “A Delicate Balance”, which was received well by fans. Although her character was a minor one, appearing less than five minutes, she had fun on the set. In an interview, Mary says, “I was so shocked that they were even paying me. I was like, “Why are you paying me to do this? It’s so much fun.”” A year after, she appeared in two episodes of the series’ spinoff, Promised Land as Chloe.
When she was fifteen years old, Mary walked into her first film set when she snagged her first feature-length film role in 1999. She was casted as Annie Jacobs in the 1999 Craig Clyde drama, The Long Road Home about a boy’s estranged relationship with his grandpa. Mary’s role is the love interest of the lead character. The film went straight-to-DVD. And just like that, Mary became a fully-fledged actress.
At the age of 20, Mary guest starred in a season one episode of the hit television series Tru Calling, about a woman who could relive days to save future potential homicide victims. She plays the naive role of Bridget Elkins in the episode “Closure”. Later that year, Mary appeared in a low-budget, made-for-TV, MTV production movie, Monster Island. She plays the role of Maddison, one of the unlucky students of a summer vacation who finds herself trapped in an island inhabited by giant monsters.
Mary further concentrated on roles in movies. She appeared in the horror sequel to the American remake of The Ring. She plays the small role of 16-Year-Old Evelyn. “I had to cry and be very emotional, but it had to be creepy at the same time,” Mary said about the role. Winstead tried her hand in comedy and nabbed a role in the independent film, Checking Out.
Nevertheless, the star received her big break in the superhero comedy, Sky High, which was released later in 2005. She was given the role of Gwen Grayson, both a loved and hated high school persona. Gwen was a technopath and was able to control technology. Undoubtedly, Gwen Grayson was Mary’s most convoluted and complex role to date. She said, “She is the quintessential girl next door and evolves throughout the movie into something else. There are a lot of complexities in her character which made it so much fun”. The film was a success, both critically and financially, and from the on, Mary’s career was on the up.
2006 marked Mary’s first lead role, her breakout and her busiest year to date. In late 2005, Mary had auditioned for the role of Wednesday Christensen in the third installment of the Final Destination saga. Initially, Mary thought that she had failed to snagged the role, but received a wonderful surprise when she was finally cast as lead. “I was in LA and this was something my agent sent me out on. I tried really hard to do my best and then just moved on. I really didn’t think about it at all. Then someone called and said I got the part and wanted to fly me to Canada right away. So it was all kind of whirlwind. It took a while to set in. I was in shock for the first two weeks, because it all happened so fast.”
In February 2006, Final Destination 3 premiered in theatres and became a huge box-office hit. Mary was complimented for her role in the film, and was praised by many acclaimed critics.
After filming re-shoots for the film, Mary was approached by Glen Morgan for a leading role in his 2006 horror remake, Black Christmas. At first, Mary rejected the role, claiming she did not want to be type-cast as a “scream queen,” although she agreed to take on the supporting role of Heather Fitzgerald (because she was a fan of the original), a college-girl who finds herself, among others, stalked by a psychopathic maniac on Christmas Eve. Winstead said about the character, “[Heather] was something new for me, nothing I’ve ever played before, sort of a debutante socialite snob. I’ve always played like the ‘Nice Girl’ or the ‘Girl Everyone Likes’ so I thought it was different.”
In 2006, Mary auditioned and was cast in Emilio Estevez’s historical drama Bobby. Mary’s performance was further praised by critics and fans alike, thus creating a bigger online fanbase. Mary initially had more scenes in the film, however, the film was heavily edited, and most of her scenes did not make it into the final cut. Regardless, the cast was awarded a nomination for the “Best Cast in a Motion Picture” by the Screen Actors Guild.
Similarly, Mary had quite a year in 2007, too, appearing in two very high-profile films. First, Winstead emerged on the silver screen in the second half of the horror double-feature, Grindhouse. Mary plays a naive, enigmatic actress working beneath the Hollywood line, Lee Montgomery. A favorite scene which earned Mary a lot of fans was her singing “Baby, It’s You” by Smith.
Mary’s performance was immensely praised by critics and her presentation had wowed many famous directors, and attracted the attention of Helmer Len Wiseman, who later cast her in his highly anticipated film, Live Free or Die Hard, the third sequel to the action hit “Die Hard”. She snagged the role of McClane’s daughter, Lucy. It was reported that she had won over many other actresses for the role. The film was critically successful, and was named one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters. She had much to say about starring alongside Willis, “He was great, he was really sweet to me and really kind he gave me lots of good advice but of course I couldn’t shake the intimidation even though he was very sweet.” She was apparently so star-struck, that she did not say a word the entire time while filming.
Having been dreaming to become a ballerina, Mary had always been searching for an opportunity to show off her dancing talents in a film, and in 2008, she got her chance. Mary was casted in Darren Grant’s latest dance drama, a very “Save the Last Dance”-esque film entitled Make It Happen.
To prepare for her role, she did a lot of practice. “I had to do a month of training of about eight hours a day or more and it was pretty intense they wanted me to do everything so I was doing the tricks and all the crazy stuff that my body hadn’t done in years. It was rough after the first few days, I wasn’t sure if my body was going to make it through it was so beaten and busied and twisted I could barely walk. But I somehow pushed through and by the end things were coming a lot easier to me and I was ready to film it, amazingly enough”. The film was released in the UK on the 8th of August, 2008. It did not go well with critics, but Mary’s performance was exceptionally raved. Mary also screen-tested for the role of Wonder Woman in a Justice League film adaptation in 2008, however the film was shelved.
In 2009, it was announced that Mary would be co-starring opposite Michael Cera in the comic-book adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, under the direction of Edgar Wright. She would star as Ramona, Scott’s enigmatic new girlfriend who has seven evil exes that he has to defeat in battle. The film was shot in Toronto from March-August 2009. Mary had to endure two months of solid fight training and performed her own stunts. The film was released in 2010 to critical acclaim, and Ramona V. Flowers became one of Mary’s most well known characters to date. She also snagged a Teen Choice Awards nomination for Choice Actress Action for her portrayal of Ramona.
Mary told of her experience while shooting the film, “It was fun. It was challenging. He has a way of bringing out the best in you and raising the bar of the level of what you think you can do without being much of a taskmaster or being too hardcore about it. He brings us really passionate, fun energy to set and he lives and breathes the film that he’s working on.”
Also in 2009, Mary and music producer Thai Long Ly co-wrote a song called “Warmth of Him.” It was the first inkling to fans that she was exploring her interest in music, yet at the time, did not have any plans to release any music albums.
On February 17, 2011 it was announced that Mary had been cast as Mary Todd Lincoln in the film adaptation of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. She was majorly praised for her role.
On September 21st, 2011 it was reported that Mary would star opposite Aaron Paul in an independent film called Smashed. It centers around a couple who can only find a connection through alcohol. Upon release at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, Mary’s performances earned her rave reviews from critics.
Mary was cast in A Glimpse Inisde the Mind of Charles Swan III, which was released in 2013. Another film was Mary was announced to star in was A.C.O.D., a comedy directed by Stuart Zicherman.
Meanwhile, in early 2012 Mary tweeted about performing vocals for a “Deltron song”, which she performed with Deltron 3030 at the Rock the Bells 2012 Festival. She also made an appearance at the SXSW Festival, where she performed a song at the Red Bull 3Style event with Dan the Automator.
On July 25, 2012 it was announced that Mary and Topher Grace would star in innovative “social film” called The Beauty Inside. The film is split into six episodes, and runs alongside the interactive storytelling which takes place on Facebook. The main character, Alex, wakes up with a different appearance everyday, and Mary plays the role of Leah, his love interest. The episodes began on August 16th and ran until September 20th.
Mary was cast in James Ponsoldt’s latest film, The Spectacular Now and despite claims that she would not be reprising her role as Lucy McClane in A Good Day to Die Hard it was announced on August 7th 2012 that she will indeed take part in the latest blockbuster sequel.