Mary Elizabeth Winstead is an American actress and singer. Her first significant role came as Jessica Bennett on the NBC soap opera Passions (1999–2000) and she went on to appear in TV series such as Tru Calling (2004) and films including the superhero comedy Sky High (2005). She came to wider attention as a scream queen for her roles in the horror series Wolf Lake (2001–2002), the giant monster film Monster Island (2004), the supernatural horror film Final Destination 3 (2006), the slasher film Black Christmas (2006) and the exploitation horror film Death Proof (2007).
Born name Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Nickname Mary, Mew
Born: November 28, 1984, 33 years and 11 months, Rocky Mount, North Carolina, U.S.
Occupation Actress, singer
Years active 1997–present
Eye Color Brown
Hair color Dark Brown
Heights 5’8 (173 cm)
Measurements 36-26-36 (91-66-94 cm)
Bra size 34B
Mother Betty Lou Winstead
Father James Ronald Winstead
Siblings She has three older sisters and one older brother
Mary Elizabeth Winstead Education
Peruvian Park Elementary
Music group Got a Girl (since 2012)
First film The Ring Two (2005)
First TV show Touched by an Angel (1997)
Further success came with her roles as John McClane’s daughter Lucy Gennero-McClane in Live Free or Die Hard (2007) and Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010). Her critically acclaimed performance as Kate Hannah, an alcoholic struggling with sobriety in the Sundance drama Smashed (2012) was followed by a line of roles in other well-received independent films, including The Beauty Inside (2012), The Spectacular Now (2013), Faults (2014), Alex of Venice (2014) and Swiss Army Man (2016). Winstead continued her Scream Queen roles in the body horror film The Thing (2011), as Mary Todd Lincoln in the fantasy horror film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) and in the monster film 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016).
She reprised her role as Lucy Gennero-McClane in A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) and returned to television with roles in the supernatural drama series The Returned (2015), the political satire/science fiction comedy series BrainDead (2016), the period medical drama series Mercy Street (2016–17) and the black comedy/crime drama anthology series Fargo (2017). She will star in the dark comedy All About Nina, Ang Lee’s science fiction-action thriller Gemini Man and the crime thriller The Parts You Lose.
Her singing career started in 2013, when she formed the music duo Got a Girl with Dan the Automator.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead was born on November 28, 1984, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, to James Ronald and Betty Lou (née Knight), and is the youngest of five children. Her grandfather was a cousin of actress Ava Gardner. When she was five years old, her family moved to Sandy, Utah, a Salt Lake City suburb. She attended Peruvian Park Elementary, where she took advanced classes. A talented dancer and singer, Winstead studied dance in a Joffrey Ballet summer program in Chicago, Illinois and sang in the International Children’s Choir. During her youth, Winstead initially hoped to pursue a career as a ballerina and appeared in local ballet productions. 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”. Realizing that a dance career was unlikely, Winstead turned to acting; as she was still a teenager at the time, this required her to be homeschooled through most of high school.
1997–2004: Early acting credits
Winstead appeared in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat starring Donny Osmond. After her brief performance in that show, 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 as Jessica Bennett in the NBC soap opera Passions, from 1999 to 2000. She left to pursue other interests, later stating, “I really had one of the smallest roles on Passions, so I didn’t get too involved… I was able to leave pretty easily”. Winstead’s next significant television role was in the short-lived CBS drama series Wolf Lake (2001–02), as the daughter of Tim Matheson’s character. The series was canceled after ten episodes. In 2004, Winstead played a supporting role in MTV’s made-for-television film Monster Island. She was offered a role in the film A Cinderella Story, but turned it down as she had just graduated from school and was going on a cruise with friends (where she met Riley Stearns, her future husband).
Following a minor role in the indie comedy Checking Out (2005), she took on a larger role as a school senior turned the main antagonist in the Walt Disney Pictures film Sky High, about an airborne school for teenage superheroes. Winstead said of her role, “I bounced around. I was either the hero of the sidekicks or the sidekick to the heroes.” The film was released on July 29, 2005, receiving favorable reviews, and budgeted at US$35 million, it grossed US$63.9 million domestically.
Winstead then began working with filmmakers James Wong and Glen Morgan, previously known for their contributions to The X-Files. She starred in the 2006 horror movie Final Destination 3 (which Wong directed and Morgan produced) as lead character Wendy Christensen, the “beleaguered heroine who experiences the premonition” that sets the story in motion. The production was a commercial success, but received a mixed response from critics. Winstead’s performance fared positively with reviewers; James Berardinelli stated she “does as competent a job as one could expect in these dire circumstances,” while Felix Gonzalez, Jr found her “likeable” in her role. Winstead would collaborate again with Morgan and Wong later that year, in the slasher-film Black Christmas. The movie, a loose remake of the 1974 film of the same name, follows a group of sorority sisters who are stalked and murdered by the house’s former inhabitants during a winter storm. It received poor reviews, but earned her a nomination for Scream Queen at the 2007 Scream Awards. Winstead got 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.
She appeared in Emilio Estevez’s Bobby, a 2006 film depicting the last hours of Robert F. Kennedy. Winstead became interested in Bobby after learning that Anthony Hopkins would appear in the film. A moderate box office success in selected theaters, Bobby received mixed reviews with many criticisms directed at the film’s script. The film’s cast was 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.
n 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 Death Proof, his high-speed segment of the double–feature exploitation horror Grindhouse. She appeared alongside Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms, Zoë Bell, and Kurt Russell in the movie’s second part, which followed a psychopathic stunt man, played by Russell, stalking and murdering young women. It is the second film to feature Winstead with Russell (after Sky High), although she only filmed scenes with Dawson, Thoms, and Bell. The production under-performed commercially but attracted significant media buzz and critical acclaim, Variety magazine noted that Death Proof “proves its worth as a stand-alone feature” and found Winstead’s “emergence” to be “one agreeable plus to the movie”. Her next film appearance of the year was opposite Bruce Willis in Live Free or Die Hard, portraying John McClane’s estranged daughter, Lucy. The movie grossed US$383.5 million and was highly acclaimed.
She starred in a lead role in Make It Happen, a dance film. The film went straight to DVD in the United States, and fared poorly in its UK release. Nevertheless, it proved a delight for Winstead, who once dreamed of being a dancer. Critics agreed that she was the film’s best asset. Reviewer Mike Martin wrote, “Winstead infuses every moment with an amazing amount of charm”. Matthew Turner of ViewLondon wrote, “Winstead compensates for the generally poor direction.”
Winstead co-starred opposite Michael Cera in the film Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, an adaptation of the comic-book Scott Pilgrim, under the direction of Edgar Wright. Her role was Ramona Flowers, a mysterious delivery girl and Scott’s love interest. Winstead went through fight training for two months and performed most of her own stunts. Filming occurred from March to August 2009, and the film was released in late 2010, to critical acclaim but poor box office returns. Winstead’s performance was well received generally, and earned her a Teen Choice Awards nomination for Choice Actress Action.
Winstead was cast as the lead female in the 2011 prequel film to 1982’s The Thing, which followed a group of scientists who discover an alien buried deep in the ice of Antarctica, realizing too late that it is still alive. Winstead portrayed paleontologist Dr. Kate Lloyd, a character she based on her sister, a neurologist. The production received a U.S. theatrical release on October 14, 2011, garnering a mixed critical reception and little commercial interest. Critics singled out Winstead for praise in her performance, with Las Vegas Weekly asserting that she “makes for an appealing protagonist, and Kate is portrayed as competent without being thrust into some unlikely action-hero role”.
2012–2014: Indie-film route
Winstead appeared opposite Aaron Paul in Smashed, an independent drama directed by James Ponsoldt about a married alcoholic couple (Paul and Winstead) whose relationship is put to test when the wife decides to get sober. She said that the film was shot in 19 days. Screened during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, Winstead’s performance earned her rave reviews, with JoBlo.com 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”. The film was released theatrically on October 12, 2012, and saw Winstead snagging the Dallas International Film Festival Award for Best Actress. During a promotional interview for the movie with website Collider, she expressed pride in working on an independent project: “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 and not part of the system, so to speak, and they’re doing things on their own terms.”
Winstead played the role of Mary Todd Lincoln opposite Benjamin Walker in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The film, also released in 2012, received a mixed critical response while it flopped at the box office. Nevertheless, critics praised Winstead’s performance. The San Jose Mercury News called Winstead “a standout”, and the Illinois Times film critic wrote, “Winstead humanizes Mary Todd Lincoln by giving her a fiery wit and sense of resolve in the face of considerable adversity”. Winstead was commended for scenes opposite Benjamin Walker, with Little White Lies writing that they shared: “a sweet chemistry that gives their handful of scenes an endearing warmth”.
In 2012, Winstead and Topher Grace appeared in The Beauty Inside, an “interactive social film”. It was broken into six filmed episodes interspersed with interactive storytelling, all on Alex (the main character)’s Facebook timeline. He awakes each day with a different appearance; Winstead appeared as Leah, Alex’s love interest. The web series served as an advertising campaign for Intel and Toshiba; it ran from August 16 through September 20, 2012.
Winstead was also cast in Roman Coppola’s A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III (2013), as Kate, “the best friend of Charlie Sheen’s girlfriend who just broke up with him. She is not so supportive of their relationship.” The film reunited her with Jason Schwartzman and Aubrey Plaza, her collaborators on Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Winstead next co-starred with Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Jane Lynch, Jessica Alba, Amy Poehler, and Catherine O’Hara in A.C.O.D. (2013), portraying Lauren Stinger, the “long-time girlfriend of Carter Scott and the rock in his increasingly chaotic life.” Although the film received mixed reviews, Winstead’s acting was singled out by the Washington Post: “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.” ScreenRant critic Ben Kendrick wrote: “Winstead and 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.” A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III and A.C.O.D. both received a limited theatrical run in North America.
Winstead collaborated again with James Ponsoldt in The Spectacular Now (2013) as Holly, the sister of Miles Teller’s lead character. She appeared with Brie Larson, her co-star in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and with Shailene Woodley, Kyle Chandler, and Bob Odenkirk. The film garnered critical acclaim and was an arthouse success. Next, Winstead briefly reprised her role in the film A Good Day to Die Hard (also 2013), shooting her scenes in only one day. Winstead stated in an interview with Yahoo! that she was not expecting another sequel but “had fun reprising the father-daughter rapport.” Winstead’s scene was only available in the theatrical version, and was cut from the unrated version.
In 2014, Winstead was given the title role in Alex of Venice, directed by Chris Messina and penned by Jessica Goldberg. She played “an environmental lawyer who is left to raise her 12-year-old son alone after her husband bolts.” Premiering at the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival, reviews for the film were mostly positive, with many critics praising Winstead’s part in it; Variety magazine called her performance “extraordinary”, saying the film: “belongs to Winstead, whose minor-key thesping proves as compelling as her heavy lifting in Smashed. Alex’s gradual metamorphosis into a richer, more fully realized young woman is accomplished in hundreds of tiny emotional brushstrokes, flitting across her girl-next-door wholesomeness in ever-shifting patterns”. Website Twitch Film wrote:
Winstead has matured from her early roles in horror films, to more impressive fare such as Smashed. She has grace, courage, knows how to move the audience and the camera loves her. While her resume up ’til now is a mix of blockbusters (Final Destination 3, Live Free or Die Hard) and indie favorites (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), this will change as she continues to grow into her profoundly blossoming career. This is an actress ready to do great things. As Alex, she always wears a look of determination, even when she’s exhausted and losing the new battles thrown at her: learning how to be alone, taking care of her family and keeping the job she’s worked her entire life for. Alex is a tender soul but does her damnedest to keep it together. It’s an admirable trait not many can do, let alone be challenged with.
In 2014, Winstead starred in Stearns’ debut feature film Faults. Winstead and co-star Leland Orser were praised for their performances, with Film School Rejects calling it an “exceptional performance” and Indiewire saying “Winstead’s inscrutable expression epitomizes this unique movie’s enigmatic appeal”, and even “ranks among her best”. Winstead was next cast alongside Jeremy Renner and Rosemarie DeWitt in Kill the Messenger. The thriller tells the true story of investigative journalist Gary Webb. Winstead portrayed Dawn Garcia, Webb’s editor at the San Jose Mercury News. It received a limited theatrical release on October 10, 2014, to favorable reviews but little commercial interest.
2015–present: Television and film balance
By January 2015, Winstead had been already cast as a series regular on A&E’s U.S. remake of the French drama series The Returned, with Sandrine Holt and Agnes Bruckner. The adapted show followed residents in a small town whose lives are disrupted when people who have been dead for many years begin reappearing. It premiered on March 9, 2015, for a 10-episode run, to mostly critical acclaim. The series was cancelled after its first season though, due to low ratings. Also in 2015, she also made a guest-appearance on the August 6 episode of IFC’s Comedy Bang! Bang! (“Mary Elizabeth Winstead Wears an A-Line Skirt and Pointy Black Boots”).
Winstead next portrayed the leading role of Mary Phinney in PBS’ civil rights drama Mercy Street. The six-part series, about two volunteer nurses on opposing sides of the Civil War, premiered on-demand on January 14, 2016, and made its broadcast debut three days later, on January 17. It rated favorably with reviewers, who also showed praise of Winstead’s performance; Variety magazine described her as the “smart, capable center around which Mercy Street pivots” and therefore noted that she was “so good that it’s hard not to wish the show had pared down the sheer number of storylines it attempts to service in its six installments”. The show was renewed for a second season, which premiered on January 22, 2017, and was cancelled after its finale aired.
Winstead headlined the psychological thriller 10 Cloverfield Lane, appearing as Michelle, a woman held in a shelter with two men, who claim the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical attack. The film, directed by Dan Trachtenberg, was released on March 11, 2016, to a widely positive reception from critics who, according to website Rotten Tomatoes, agreed that the movie “makes the most of its confined setting and outstanding cast”. Daily Express found Winstead “sympathetic” and remarked that she “creates a character who is smart and resourceful”, while writer James Berardinelli called her a “good choice” to play the heroine as she is “strong yet feminine”. 10 Cloverfield Lane had the highest debut at the box office for Winstead in a leading role, with over US$24 million grossed on its opening weekend; it went on to gross US$72 million in North America and US$110.2 million worldwide.
Winstead appeared in Swiss Army Man, an independent comedy-drama directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. The film, co-starring Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano, follows a hopeless man stranded on an island who befriends an apparent dead body as he tries to get back home. It premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and was released in selected theaters on June 24, to a positive reception. Winstead also had a role in John Krasinski’s small-scale dramedy The Hollars, opposite Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Mary Kay Place, and Margo Martindale. She played the ex-girlfriend of Krasinski’s struggling New York City graphic novelist, who returns to his hometown after learning his mother has fallen ill. Like Swiss Army Man, the production was screened at Sundance and received a limited U.S. theatrical release in August 2016.
Winstead appeared in CBS’ political comic thriller BrainDead, as leading character Laurel, “the daughter of a Democratic political dynasty who left Washington, D.C. to become a documentary filmmaker, but is pulled back into the family business when her brother needs political help”. The series received mildly positive reviews by critics, with New York Magazine calling Winstead’s casting the “smartest decision the makers made”, and The A.V. Club said that she “makes an eminently watchable, formidable heroine”. Despite a largely positive critical response, the series debuted to lackluster ratings and after the airing of its 13-episode first season, CBS announced its cancellation.
Winstead starred opposite Ewan McGregor in the third season of Fargo as Nikki Swango, “a crafty and alluring recent parolee with a passion for competitive bridge playing [and] with a plan, focused on always being at least one move ahead of her opponents”. The season is set around December 2010 in Minnesota and follows the lives of McGregor and Winstead’s criminal couple roles; it premiered on April 19, 2017, to positive reviews. In an interview with Variety, Winstead spoke of the character, “I’d never played a character like this. Once I was on set and doing it, it was so easy but it took all the elements coming together for me to feel confident and comfortable.”
In October 2017, Deadline reported that Winstead will be starring as lead in the semi-autographical dark comedy All About Nina, opposite Common. In December 2017, it was reported that she will co-star in The Parts You Lose; the romantic thriller will see her reuniting with her Smashed co-star, Aaron Paul. In January 2018, it was reported that Winstead was cast as female lead opposite Will Smith in Gemini Man. The film, directed by Ang Lee is set for release on October 4, 2019.
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.” For her part in 2007’s Death Proof, Tarantino had Winstead sing an a cappella cover of The Shirelles’ hit recording “Baby It’s You”. She was asked without warning to perform the song and the cast were reportedly “gob-smacked” by her singing. Winstead and music producer Thai Long Ly eventually co-wrote a song, called “Warmth of Him”. Although first rumored to be a pre-release single, Winstead confirmed that she was just exploring her interest and did not plan at the time on releasing any music albums.
Got a Girl
Main article: Got a Girl
In an interview with Complex magazine for the June/July 2012 issue, Winstead revealed she was working with Dan the Automator and was indeed planning on releasing a music album. The duo formed the band Got a Girl the following year, and released their demo “You & Me” on May 21, 2013. The album, titled I Love You but I Must Drive Off This Cliff Now, was released on July 22, 2014 via Bulk Recordings. The first single, “Did We Live Too Fast” premiered on June 3, and its music video, directed by Hope Larson, premiered online on June 16. The album features heavy influences of French pop music, with Winstead detailing that the inspiration behind the project came from “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.” All lyrics were written by Winstead while all music was composed by Dan the Automator.
Winstead was also featured on the songs “The Agony” and “Look Across The Sky” on Deltron 3030’s second studio album Event 2, released on September 30, 2013.
In November 2016, Honus Honus from experimental band Man Man released a song on SoundCloud, “Santa Monica” that features Winstead. In December 2016, Portugal. The Man released the single and video for “Noise Pollution (Version A, Vocal Up Mix 1.3)” from their album Woodstock, featuring Winstead and Zoe Manville.
In 2010, Winstead married Riley Stearns, a film director and television writer from Austin, Texas, whom she met at age 18 on an ocean cruise. She starred in and produced Stearns’ debut feature film, Faults in 2014. Three years later, she left her husband for actor Ewan McGregor, whom she met on set filming the third season of the television series (while he was married also) Fargo.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead Interesting Facts
Mary is also a talented dancer,
She formed a band with Dan the Automator named, Got A Girl,
During her youth, she actually wanted to pursue career as a ballerina,
The actress was also among the victims of 2014 celebrity pictures hack,
She is the youngest of five children,
She was raised as a Southern Baptist,
he ranked #75 in 2008 and #88 in 2009 in FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women in the World editions,
She was listed #10 on Maxim’s “Hottest Women of Horror Movies” list,
Her hobbies include cooking, dancing, and singing.