An interview with Mary Elizabeth Winstead

From The Quentin Tarantino Archives

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A Conversation with Mary Elizabeth Winstead

By Sebastian Haselbeck. March 26, Hollywood, CA.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and space constraints. Pieces might have been omitted from the actual conversation, and the sentences altered for readability.

  • Sebastian ( Have you cheerleadered before?
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead: I haven't, no. I was never a cheerleader. It was funny, because we were asked to wear cheerleading outfits to the audition, and most of the other girls had them because they were cheerleaders at one point and had them hanging in the closet somewhere. So I went and found this kind of retro-looking, pseudo cheerleader outfit and it was pretty cool.
  • Sebastian: Did you keep it?
  • Mary: Yeah I kept it. I haven't really worn it to anything else yet, but I still have it
  • Sebastian: I've heard somebody kept Uma Thurman's track suit from Kill Bill and sold it on ebay... isn't that cruel?
  • Mary: Really? That's horrible, it should be in a museum somewhere.
  • Sebastian: Among all the 'tough chicks' you play kind of the balancing, you put the cute innocence in it
  • Mary: Right
  • Sebastian: And some laughs.... Wouldn't you rather kick some ass, too?
  • Mary: It would've been fun to kick some ass, but, you know, it wasn't my role, so I had to understand my place in the film was to be the cute, naive, girly one, and in the end I'm the collateral (laughs) I have to serve some sort of purpose, and that was my purpose in the end.
  • Sebastian: And now you get to play McClane's daughter!
  • Mary: Exactly! It's cool to go from being naive girly girl to being a McClane and throwing some punches and take a few names
  • Sebastian: The man's a legend
  • Mary: Yeah
  • Sebastian: So is that a big role?
  • Mary: It's a pretty big role. You could equate it to Bonnie Bedelia's role in the past films she's been in. They're separated through a lot of the film, but the whole purpose is trying to, you know, he's trying to get to her, it's very similar to my role.
  • Sebastian: How's it working with Bruce?
  • Mary: It was great! He was really cool, really mellow, he never raises his voice, he never seems agitated, he's always very laid back and kinda goes with the flow, which is really awesome.
  • Sebastian: Did he sing on the set (he did a concert during the shooting of Sin City)?
  • Mary: Did he sing on the set.... hm... I never... actually he broke out into show tunes a couple of times (laughs) that was mainly for the humor effect.
  • Sebastian: What was your favorite scene in Death Proof?
  • Mary: To shoot?
  • Sebastian: The last second maybe?
  • Mary: (laughs) the very last second was my favorite... well no, I haven't seen it yet, I get so see it tomorrow, so I am just waiting and anticipating it so much. But to shoot, I mean every single moment of it was unbelievable. I couldn't equate it to anything else, it was, I don't think any experience is every gonna come close. Every scene was like doing an amazing play sometimes, other times it just felt like we were hanging out and the camera happened to be rolling, so it was unbelievable.
  • Sebastian: The girls kinda trick you and leave you alone with that mechanic, isn't that cruel?
  • Mary: Yeah, it's really mean! But they say, oh, you know, you had the car there, you could've hotwired it, like Lee could've hotwired a car! I was sleeping, you know we were supposed to be hung over, it was in the morning, we had been partying all night, I'm back in the barn sleeping, all the girls are duking it out over the car, I have no idea what's going on and they just leave! With some random person and I'm completely clueless as to what's just happened, so... it's pretty mean.
  • Sebastian: Wasn't there a scene filmed, on a parking lot, where Rosario's character goes into a gas station and buys a magazine with you on the cover?
  • Mary: Yeah
  • Sebastian: It's not in the movie...
  • Mary: It's not in the movie? (to herself:) Damn it.
  • Sebastian: You girls hanging out that felt so natural, that amazed me.
  • Mary: It was so natural, I mean we would be hanging out, and all of a sudden we'd start basically doing dialogue from the movie without even realizing it, like 'wait, you just said your line from the movie, in real life'. Because our dynamics between each other were so similar off-set as they were as the characters, it was kind of eerie sometimes.
  • Sebastian: You've had quite a career so far...
  • Mary: It's been good! It's been a good year, too. I've been working at this since I was a kid, so it's been a slow process, but it's been so much fun...
  • Sebastian: Did you ever think about going back to college or anything?
  • Mary: I did, definitely. I did online courses a couple of years ago, two years of credits out of the way, that was kind of my way of, well in case things don't work out at least I wouldn't be behind, so I did that. And then at that point things started picking up to a point where I was like I just gotta go with this and focus all my energy on acting, and not worry about the should'ves, could'ves.
  • Sebastian: For people our age, the Grindhouse thing is something you'd have to look up, all the movies, and people tell us about it. Did you know anything about it before?
  • Mary: I was actually becoming a big fan of grindhouse by the time this movie came to me because I had spent a lot of time in Austin, Texas where my boyfriend is from, and I would visit him every month there, and one of the things we would do, is go to the Alamo Drafthouse, which is this really cool theater, and we'd go into midnight showings, see these awesome exploitation movies. This was unlike any other experience, because the place is packed, and people are clapping and laughing and yelling at the screen, it's just more fun than anything else you would usually do on a friday night. So I was a big fan of this kind of movies before I actually became a part of this one, so I kind of understood where they came from a little bit
  • Sebastian: Are you gonna be in Austin on Wednesday (the premiere)?
  • Mary: Yeah, I'm really excited. And tomorrow's the LA premiere, and I'm so excited. I've been waiting to see this movie since I read the script, been waiting to see it on the screen (laughs)
  • Sebastian: Yeah, me too. I read the script, something I should not have done.
  • Mary: Oh really? (laughs)
  • Sebastian: Yeah, coz I know what's in the missing reels... I feel cheated (laughs)
  • Mary: Yeah, you do... that's funny. Well in the European release, everything will be in there. So that's what I'm looking forward to seeing, too.
  • Sebastian: In different towns, they could have different missing reels, so you'd have to drive around to catch it all...
  • Mary: (laughs) that would be cool... Well at least you'll see the 'missing footage'.... it's kind of a bummer, but it'll be cool, at least there'll be more, and I'm not sure, but in Planet Terror, there might be more footage in that one as well.
  • Sebastian: So how's it working with Quentin?
  • Mary: Unbelievable. He's the most fun person you could ever be around I think. The audition was a little scary, coz he's so intense and passionate, and before you meet him you think that could turn into a complete mania, you know that could be scary (laughs). When you meet him, he just blows that out of the water, shatters that possibility. He's so friendly and warm and open and sweet. You know, he gives you a big hug, and really puts you at ease, makes you feel you're just like his buddy, and throughout the whole process we were all friends, and was like "just the guy", he was our guy friend hanging out with his whole posse of ladies going out into town and it was really amazing to feel like he treats everyone as equals, while he's considered this brilliant genius, he doesn't have to treat people like that. He treats people in this wonderfully kind way, when he could be an asshole (laughs). He's sort of earned that right, because he's so powerful at this.
  • Sebastian: Have you had that before, asshole directors?
  • Mary: Not really, I've been lucky... You know, cast, directors, all the people I've worked with across the board have been really great people, I think Quentin kind of takes it to a new level because he's so gregarious, and so much fun, that it's for anyone to compete, with that kind of personality. But everyone I've worked with has been wonderful, so I'm definitely grateful for that.
  • Sebastian: I think it was Vanessa who mentioned, that he's always right next to the camera, it freaked her out a little bit...
  • Mary: Yeah, and his face is right here (laughs), which, I never really got freaked out by that, I don't know why, but it is kind of interesting..., but yeah every take his face is right there. But it's so cool, it makes you... you feel really good because he's watching you, like smiling, he's got this exciting look on his face and you know you're doing a good job.
  • Sebastian: He's a bit like a child, and he's making the movie for him
  • Mary: Yeah he is! He's like a kid on christmas, he can't contain his excitement. But it's great to be around.
  • Sebastian: Everytime he's making a new movie in a new genre, he's making everybody watch old movies and he gets all excited...
  • Mary: Yeah. He loves bringing people into his circle and educating them, and making them love what he loves, too. And you feel like a part of his inner circle of people, like you're in the cool crowd once you know all these movies and you get to see screenings at his theater, you feel like you're part of something special.
  • Sebastian: So what's next after (Live free and) Die Hard?
  • Mary: I don't know, I'm kind of, uhm, weighing my options right now, there are a couple of things that might work out. But it's weird because we're definitely, we're all spoiled after doing this movie. You feel like you have to do something great, now that you did this 'event' of a movie that's coming out, it's like this spectacle. So I don't wanna do something that I'm not very excited about or I don't think is good or interesting, so I have to wait until the right thing comes along
  • Sebastian: Yeah, I think you've mentioned you don't want to do a straight-to-video flick...
  • Mary: (laughs) Yeah! Right, can't go backwards... "I was in Grindhouse, and after that... it went downhill" (laughs)
  • Sebastian: More Grindhouse maybe. I asked Quentin, becuase he was originally gonna make a fake trailer called...
  • Both at the same time: Cowgirls in Sweden
  • Mary: Yeah, I know!
  • Sebastian: And he didn't get to do it, see, there you go...
  • Mary: Yeah he's always joking, but it's like half-joking about uh, Grindhouse 2, so you never know. Lee, what happens to Lee, could be in the opening shot (laughs)
  • Sebastian: Allright, it was nice talking to you. Have a nice day.
  • Mary: Nice to meet you, you too.
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