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Interview by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for Radio Free Entertainment
November 4, 2006

Audiences who don't know Mary Elizabeth Winstead from Sky High or her lead role in Final Destination 3 will have plenty of opportunities to become acquainted with the charming actress over the course of the next year: aside from being a part of the ridiculously star-studded cast in the Bobby Kennedy drama Bobby, Mary will be featured in the horror remake Black Christmas with Michelle Trachtenberg and Lacey Chabert, the groundbreaking Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez collaboration Grind House, and the summer blockbuster sequel Live Free or Die Hard with Bruce Willis.

Get to know Mary in this exclusive interview, in which she talks a little about herself and graciously previews Black Christmas for us.

Mary's next film, Grindhouse, opens in theaters everywhere on April 6!

The Interview

RadioFree.com: Not that you don't look good now, but yesterday, when the Bobby press conference was held, you were intimidatingly glamorous with the dress. I didn't think I should say anything to you in the elevator, because I was like scared...

MARY: [laughs] Well, you shouldn't be.

I'm obligated to ask why you've chosen to go the whole 3-name route as your professional moniker...

I joined SAG when I was 12, and so that's when you kind of officially [put] your name in there. And I just thought it sounded better. I grew up as "Mary Winstead." Everyone just called me that at school as a kid, and I always thought it was so boring. And so I thought, "Well, maybe I can throw my middle name in there and it'll get noticed a little more." [laughs]

Despite the sheer number of stars in Bobby, everyone in the cast seems to be talking excitedly about working with Anthony Hopkins. What role of his first caught your attention?

I think one of the first really, truly scary movies I ever saw was Silence of the Lambs. And I think even then, I realized that it wasn't just a scary movie, but it was such an amazing piece of work and such an amazing performance. And I think from then on, I sort of saw his newer films and his earlier films, and got a real sense of how he can play absolutely anything, and how amazing it is to be able to do that. And he's the pinnacle of everything every actor tries to be and become.

This sounds cliche, but were you surprised at just how down to earth he is?

Completely. And really kind of quiet, and completely without ego or attitude or any sort of elitist way about him, which being a "Sir" Anthony Hopkins, you can imagine that that would be possible.

He said he killed some time by playing $20 on quarter slot machines while shooting The World's Fastest Indian, if you can picture him idling away with pocket change...

I can actually see that. I feel like he's anybody's father or grandfather. Just kind of a normal, normal guy. It's really great.

You get to be part of another ensemble in Black Christmas. "Sorority girls trapped together on Christmas break." As a guy, I automatically have to see this...

Right! [laughs] Pillow fights!

Since you bring that up: are we getting pillow fights with this one?

[laughs] No, there's no pillow fights...The action starts really quickly in the film, which I think is good. I think there's only so much you can take of sorority girls just hanging out talking. I haven't seen it yet. I think it's being edited sort of constantly and changing constantly. So I'm going to be as surprised as everyone, I think, to see how the finished product turns out. I'm excited.

So you don't even know if your character lives or dies?

[coyly] Well, I'm pretty sure about that! [laughs]

As a remake of a 1974 film, is it set in the '70s, or has it been modernized?

It's modernized. The characters are different. They're sort of inspired in ways from the earlier characters, but it's written so that there's not a character they can say, "Okay, this is the girl that lived in the first one, so you know she's going to live in this one" or "This is the girl that got killed second." It's completely changed up because we don't want people to think it's predictable.

Since it's modernized, should we expect more of a thriller than a campy '70s exploitation flick?

It's more of a thriller. It's more sort of sleek. It's not too campy. I think it's taken with more of a serious tone.

The recent trend for horror and action movies seems to be to plan for sequels before the first one is even released. Has there been that kind of talk for Black Christmas?

No. I just don't think that that would be something to do with this one. I feel like it's kind of a stand alone film, and it wraps up pretty much in the end.

Are you really working your screaming skills in this movie?

Yes. [laughs]

What about your crying skills? Can you turn on the waterworks on cue?

I can't exactly cry on cue at the point where you could say cry [snaps fingers] and I'll make my eyes water. I have to really think about terrible things for a few minutes and really get my head in that place, and then it's pretty assured that I will be crying. And screaming...Maybe from voice training...I've been a singer for a long time. I've always had kind of a powerful scream about me.

You've talked previously about training as a ballet dancer. Was that your original career goal?

It was. As a child, that was my ultimate career choice. I studied in New York when I was 12, and [took part in] pre-professional programs to train to become a ballerina. And I realized pretty early on that I was already too tall by the time I was 13. [laughs] You know, your body has to stay that way for your entire life, and it's pretty hard on your muscles and your bones.

So it's something you can't really do if you're taller?

Well, actually, you won't get cast in ballets if you're over 5'4". I mean, you just won't. [laughs] It's pretty much the truth. So I realized that if I wanted to have a long career in something, I might as well choose something different.

As someone who has been working in performing arts most of her life, you probably never had a waitressing job like your character in Bobby, right?

Yeah...I got lucky. I was acting and singing and dancing and everything growing up, and I was professionally acting by the time I was 12 in TV shows and little films here and there. So I always was kind of working on a small level, so I never had to do anything else.

Where did you shoot the restaurant scenes for Bobby?

We were at the cafe in the Ambassador. It was really great. It was some of the only stuff that was actually filmed there. A lot of stuff had to be recreated on a set.

With your new crop of films being released, your internet fan base is growing...

That's pretty cool, yeah! [laughs]

Since new fans may be interested in finding out more about you, what is a hobby or interest you have outside of acting?

I guess my newest interest is I kind of have a fantasy of becoming a fashion designer. [laughs] But for myself. I like to make my own clothes and things like that. I'm learning how to sew...So that's kind of my new hobby, other than dancing and singing and the usual stuff that I've been doing my whole life.

All fan-written bios shall now say, "loves designing clothes."

Right! [laughs]

Where did you grow up?

I was born in North Carolina. My whole family is from there. That's where my relatives are. We moved to Salt Lake City when I was about 5, and lived there for most of my childhood. And then my family recently moved back to North Carolina, so everyone's there now.

What's the thing to do in North Carolina?

Ummm...Gosh, I don't know! [laughs] Not much in the towns that my family lives in. There's a lot of just hanging out with family and cooking and eating a whole lot of deep fried Southern food. I think that's the main thing. [laughs]

Any rivalry with South Carolina?

[laughs] No rivalry!

Having worked with so many film ensembles, were there any co-stars with whom you particularly bonded?

Yeah. I think with every film, I've kind of taken away one person, at least, who I've stuck with. I'm not a really "cliquish" type of person. 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. And with everyone else, I usually tend to be pretty shy. So I still have my best friend, who...The girl who played my sister in Final Destination 3 was just staying with me for a couple weeks. And Lacey Chabert on Black Christmas, I'm really close to...And I love Rosario [Dawson] and Sydney Poitier from Grind House.

Ah, so Lacey was your confidant? What was it that made the two of you click?

Lacey was my confidant, yeah...I think our personalities are just really similar. From working together, we kind of...We're sort of the "rare good girls" in the business, I think. [laughs] So we kind of connected on that level.

That about wraps it up for this afternoon. Thanks so much for your time, Mary!

Thank you!

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