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This article is about the actress. For the comedian, see Lizz Winstead.

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Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Mary Elizabeth Winstead BvS 2016
Born (1984-11-28) November 28, 1984 (age 39)
Rocky Mount, North Carolina, U.S.
OccupationsActress, singer
Years active1997–present
Riley Stearns
(m. 2010)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead (born November 28, 1984) is an American actress and singer, best known for her scream queen roles in the horror films Final Destination 3 (2006), Black Christmas (2006), Death Proof (2007), The Thing (2011), Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012), and 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016). She appeared as John McClane's daughter Lucy in Live Free or Die Hard and A Good Day to Die Hard, the fourth and fifth films in the Die Hard franchise, Ramona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Kate Hannah, an alcoholic struggling with sobriety in the Sundance drama Smashed.

Her singing career started in 2013, with her formation of the music duo Got a Girl with Dan the Automator.

Early life[]

The youngest of five children[1] of Betty Lou (Knight) Winstead and James Ronald Winstead, Mary Elizabeth Winstead was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.[2][3] Her grandfather was a cousin of actress Ava Gardner.[4] When she was five years old, her family moved to Sandy, Utah, a Salt Lake City suburb.[3][5] She attended Peruvian Park Elementary,[6] where she took advanced classes.[5] A talented dancer and singer, Winstead studied dance in a Joffrey Ballet summer program in Chicago, Illinois[5] and sang in the International Children's Choir.[7] 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 a dance career was unlikely, Winstead turned to acting;[3] as she was still a teenager at the time, this required her to be homeschooled through most of high school.[8][9]

Acting career[]

1997–2005: Early acting credits[]

Winstead appeared in a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat starring Donny Osmond.[10] 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".[11] 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.[12] 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).[13] In 2005 she had a minor role in the indie comedy Checking Out, then a larger role as the main antagonist of the successful Walt Disney Pictures film Sky High.

2006–2011: Mainstream attention[]

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,[14] the "beleaguered heroine who experiences the premonition" that sets the story in motion.[15] The production was a commercial success, but received a mixed response from critics.[16] Winstead's performance fared positively with reviewers;[17] James Berardinelli stated she "does as competent a job as one could expect in these dire circumstances,"[18] while Felix Gonzalez, Jr found her "likeable" in her role.[19] 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,[20] 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.[21]

She appeared in Emilio Estevez's Bobby, a 2006 film depicting the last hours of Robert F. Kennedy.[22] Winstead became interested in Bobby after learning that Anthony Hopkins would appear in the film.[22] A moderate box office success in selected theaters, Bobby received mixed reviews[23] with many criticisms directed at the film's script.[24] 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.[25]

File:Mary Elizabeth Winstead 3.jpg

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

2007 saw Winstead appear 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 thriller Grindhouse.[26] She appeared alongside Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms, Zoë Bell, and Kurt Russell in the movie' 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,[27][28] 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]".[29][30] Her next film appearance of the year was opposite Bruce Willis in Live Free or Die Hard,[1] portraying John McClane's estranged daughter, Lucy. The movie grossed US$383.5 million and was highly acclaimed.[31][32]

She starred in a lead role in Make It Happen, a dance film.[33] 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".[34] Matthew Turner of ViewLondon wrote, "[Winstead] compensates for the generally poor direction."[35]

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.[36] 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.[37] Filming occurred from March[38] to August 2009,[39] 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.[40]

Winstead was cast as the lead female in the 2011 prequel film to 1982's The Thing,[41][42] 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.[43][44] The production received a U.S. theatrical release on October 14, 2011, garnering a mixed critical reception and little commercial interest.[45][46] Critics singled out Winstead for praise in her performance,[47] 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".[48]

2012–2014: Indie-film route[]

Winstead appeared opposite Aaron Paul in Smashed, an independent film directed by James Ponsoldt.[49] She said that the film was shot in 19 days.[50] Screened during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival,[51] Winstead's performance earned her rave reviews,[52] with 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".[53] The film was released theatrically on October 12, 2012,[54][55] and saw Winstead snagging the Dallas International Film Festival Award for Best Actress. During a promotional interview for the movie with website, 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."[56]

Winstead played the role of Mary Todd Lincoln opposite Benjamin Walker in the film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.[57] The film was also given a 2012 release, to a mixed response,[58] but critics praised Winstead's performance. The San Jose Mercury News called Winstead "a standout",[59] 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".[60] 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".[61]

Winstead was also cast in Roman Coppola's A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, as Kate, "the best friend of [Charlie Sheen's] girlfriend who just broke up with him. She is not so supportive of their relationship."[62] The film reunited her with Jason Schwartzman and Aubrey Plaza her collaborators on Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Winstead was cast in A.C.O.D. as Lauren Stinger, "long-time girlfriend of Carter (Scott) and the rock in his increasingly chaotic life."[63] She appeared with Adam Scott, Richard Jenkins, Jane Lynch, Jessica Alba, Clark Duke, Amy Poehler, and Catherine O'Hara. Although the film received mixed reviews,[64] 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.”[65] ScreenRant critic Ben Kendrick wrote: “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.”[66] The movie premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and was later given a limited release.[67]

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 16 August through 20 September 2012.[68][69] Winstead collaborated again with James Ponsoldt in The Spectacular Now as Holly, the sister of Miles Teller's lead character.[70] 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, based on the novel of the same name by Tim Tharp, opened to favorable reviews and good results in its limited release with a total gross of $6 million over a production budget of $2.5 million.[71][72][73][74] Next, Winstead reprised her role in the film A Good Day to Die Hard, shooting her scenes in only one day.[50][75][76] Winstead stated in an interview with Yahoo! that she was not expecting another sequel but "[had fun reprising] the father-daughter rapport."[77] Winstead's scene was only available in the theatrical version, and was cut from the unrated version.

In 2013 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."[78] Premiering at the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival,[79] reviews for the film were mostly positive, with many critics praising Winstead's part in it;[80][81] 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".[82] 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.[83]

In July 2013 Winstead was reported to be starring in Stearns' debut feature film Faults.[78] Winstead and co-star Leland Orser were praised for their performances, with Film School Rejects calling it an "exceptional performance"[84] and Indiewire saying "[Winstead's] inscrutable expression epitomizes this unique movie's enigmatic appeal", and even "ranks among her best".[85] 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.[86] It was given a limited release on October 10, 2014, to favorable reviews but little interest in its theatrical run.[87][88]

2015–present: Television and film roles[]

By January 2015, Winstead had been already cast as a series regular on A&E's US 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.[89][90] The series was cancelled after its first season though, due to low ratings.[91] The same year, 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").[92] 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.[93] It rated favorably with reviewers,[94] 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".[95] The show has since been renewed for a second season,[96] due for release on January 22, 2017.[97]

Winstead appeared in Swiss Army Man, an indie comedy-drama directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. The movie, 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.[98] It premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and was released in selected theaters on June 24, to a positive reception.[99] Winstead also had a role in John Krasinski's dramedy The Hollars, opposite Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Mary Kay Place, and Margo Martindale.[100] 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.[101] As Swiss Army Man, the movie was screened at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, and is scheduled to receive a limited US theatrical release on August 26.[102]

Winstead headlined the psychological thriller 10 Cloverfield Lane,[103] 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,[104] 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".[105] Daily Express found Winstead "sympathetic" and remarked that she "creates a character who is smart and resourceful",[106] while writer James Berardinelli called her a "good choice" to play the heroine as she is "strong yet feminine".[107] 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.[108]

Winstead appears 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".[109] The series' debuted on June 13, 2016 and its first season will consist of 13 episodes.[110][111] The series received mixed to positive reviews by critics,[112][113] with New York Magazine calling Winstead's casting the "smartest decision the makers made",[114] and The A.V. Club says she "makes an eminently watchable, formidable heroine".[115]

In June 2016, it was reported that Winstead will be starring in Stearns' next feature film, The Art of Self-Defense. According to Stearns, it is a "karate movie".[116] In September, it was announced that Winstead will be joining the third season of Fargo.[117]

Singing career[]

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."[118] 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".[119] 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".[120] 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.[121] The album, titled I Love You But I Must Drive Off this Cliff Now, was released on July 22, 2014 via Bulk Recordings.[122] The first single, "Did We Live Too Fast" premiered on June 3,[123] and its music video, directed by Hope Larson, premiered online on June 16.[124] 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."[125] 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,[126] released on September 30, 2013.[127]

In November 2016, Honus Honus from experimental band Man Man released a song on SoundCloud, "Santa Monica" that features Winstead.

Personal life[]

Winstead has been married since 2010 to Riley Stearns, a film director and television writer from Austin, Texas,[128] whom she met at age 18 on an ocean cruise.[129] Winstead starred in and produced Stearns' debut feature film, Faults in 2014.[78] She is set to appear in Stearns' second feature film, The Art of Self-Defense.[116]

She was one of the victims of the 2014 celebrity pictures hack.[130]



Year Title Role Notes
2005 The Ring Two Young Evelyn Unrated version only
2005 Checking Out Lisa Apple
2005 Sky High Gwendolyn 'Gwen' Grayson/Sue Tenny/Royal Pain
2006 Final Destination 3 Wendy Christensen
2006 Bobby Susan Taylor
2006 Factory Girl Ingrid Superstar
2006 Black Christmas Heather Lee-Fitzgerald
2007 Death Proof Lee Montgomery
2007 Live Free or Die Hard Lucy Gennero-McClane
2008 Stop/Eject Elizabeth Short film
2008 Make It Happen Lauryn Kirk
2010 Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Ramona Victoria Flowers
2011 The Thing Dr. Kate Lloyd
2011 Magnificat Lynn Short film; also executive producer
2011 Cost of Living The Computer (voice) Short film
2012 Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Mary Todd Lincoln
2012 Smashed Kate Hannah
2012 A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III Kate
2012 The Cub Short film; executive producer
2013 A Good Day to Die Hard Lucy Gennero-McClane Theatrical version only
2013 A.C.O.D. Lauren Stinger
2013 The Spectacular Now Holly Keely
2014 Showing Up Herself Documentary
2014 Alex of Venice Alex Vedder
2014 Faults Claire/Ira Also producer
2014 Kill the Messenger Anna Simons
2016 Swiss Army Man Sarah
2016 The Hollars Gwen
2016 10 Cloverfield Lane Michelle
2016 So It Goes Samantha Short film
2017 The Art of Self-Defense TBA


Year Title Role Notes
1997 Touched by an Angel Kristy Episode: "A Delicate Balance"
1998 Promised Land Chloe 2 episodes
1999–2000 Passions Jessica Bennett Soap opera
1999 The Long Road Home Annie Jacobs Television film
2000 Father Can't Cope Tara Pilot
2001–2002 Wolf Lake Sophia Donner 10 episodes
2003 Then Came Jones Rina Television film
2004 Tru Calling Bridget Elkins Episode: "Closure"
2004 Monster Island Madison Television film
2014 Exposed Anna Loach Pilot
2012 The Beauty Inside Leah 5 episodes
2015 The Returned Rowan Blackshaw 9 episodes
2015 Comedy Bang! Bang! Herself Episode: "Mary Elizabeth Winstead Wears an A-Line Skirt and Pointy Black Boots"
2016–present Mercy Street Mary Phinney 6 episodes
2016 BrainDead Laurel Healy 13 episodes
2016 Brad Neely's Harg Nallin Sclopio Peepio (voice) Episode: "For Streep"[131]
2017 Fargo Nikki Swango Season 3

Music video[]

Year Title Artist
2010 "Love Your Flawz"[132] Caitlin Crosby
2014 "Did We Live Too Fast" Got a Girl

Awards and nominations[]

Year Award Category Production Result
2000 Young Artist Award Best Young Actress in a Daytime TV Series Passions Nominated
2001 Young Artist Award Best Young Actress in a Daytime TV Series Passions Nominated
2006 Hollywood Film Festival Best Ensemble Cast (shared with cast) Bobby Won
2006 Broadcast Film Critics Association Award Best Cast Bobby Nominated
2006 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Bobby Nominated
2006 Scream Award Scream Queen Black Christmas Nominated
2010 IGN Movie Award Best Ensemble Cast Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Nominated
2010 Teen Choice Awards Choice Actress Action Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Nominated
2012 Independent Spirit Award Best Female Lead Smashed Nominated
2012 Phoenix Film Critics Society Award Best Actress Smashed Nominated
2013 Dallas International Film Festival Shining Star Award for Best Actress Smashed Won
2016 Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie: Drama 10 Cloverfield Lane Nominated

See also[]

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