I’ve known Mary Elizabeth Winstead for about 10 years now. We met on the set of Final Destination 3. She was the lead and I was playing her little sister. It also happened to be my first feature film job ever and I was nervous as hell. Fortunately for me, Mary happens to be one of the kindest, warmest, most welcoming actresses you could ever hope to work with. Long nights on that set sparked a friendship that I’m so grateful to have. I asked if she would be my first feature for FRANK and she said yes without hesitation. Because she’s awesome like that.
Amanda: I’m just going to jump right in here. I’ve always admired the way that you’ve held yourself. I never told you this, but since I first met you, you were always my secret mentor. *laughs* It’s dorky but true. I would sometimes ask myself, “What would Mary do?” when I was facing a hard decision that had to do with my career.
Mary: Little do you know I don’t know anything.
A: *laughs* But I've always felt like you've had a really strong sense of who you are and what you stand for. Even when you were younger you had a strong sense of that and I just wonder where that comes from because I think that it’s very unique in our industry.
M: That’s interesting. I mean it’s so nice to hear you say that. I feel like looking back on it I was just flailing through everything and figuring things out as I went and it's funny to think that people saw me that way because I really had no idea what I was doing. I think for the most part everything turned out really well so I can't say that I made any decisions that I regretted but I think I always came from a place of feeling like there was a certain confidence in what I was doing and knowing that it was going to work out which I'm not really sure that was either stupidity or naivety or something on my part. And I think some of it was.
A: Like the story you were telling me last night about turning down the “blank” movie to go on a cruise.
M: Oh yes! When I was 18 I turned down... I think I can say.
A: On the record.
M: Yeah, I turned down a role in CINDERELLA STORY starring Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray.
A: Who were huge at the time! That was a big movie to turn down.
M: Yeah it was a huge studio movie and I had not done a studio movie at that time. I had only done TV work and was really trying to break into movies but I had scheduled this cruise with my best friend who was banking on going on this celebratory senior trip cruise with me. We had just graduated high school and it was this big decision for me. Do I go shoot this movie or do I go on this cruise? But I really wanted to go on the cruise and I wasn't that excited about the movie, even though I knew it would be good in terms of getting my foot in the door. So I decided to go on the cruise and ended up meeting my future husband.
A: Which is so crazy! When you said that last night I was like, "Wow, I don't even know if I could do that NOW!" It's always this kind of feast or famine as an actor and you constantly feel like this job is the last. So to be at the beginning of your career and be given your first kind of big opportunity. Was your agent upset?
M: I don't really remember what they thought.
A: You just didn't give a fuck!
M: *laughs* But it's funny, I feel like it's weird, because I'm in such a better place with my career now, but I feel more worried about getting work now than I did then. I feel in some ways I was very privileged. I got roles pretty quickly when I first started so maybe I was spoiled in that sense. I was just always like, "Yeah I'll work. It'll be fine. I'll get another job. I'll figure it out.” Shortly after the cruise I did have a big dry spell of not working and probably had moments where I… *laughs*
A: Questioned your decision?
M: No, not really because I mean I had met [my husband] Riley on the cruise so I never actually wished I didn't go on the cruise but it is interesting.
A: You recently started taking piano lessons and doing silks classes, which I think is so cool and adventurous. What sparked that?
M: Well, what’s funny is that I’ve been wanting to do silks for years and Riley can attest to this. I've always wanted to go to Cirque du Soleil school. Since I was a kid, my sister and I would watch those videos and that was just something we were really into. And so I had always wanted to do it and then finally I think just getting to the age where I realized that I have to exercise, like I can't not do something. Whereas all through my 20's I could kind of skate by with just doing a day at the gym for like 30 minutes.
A: Are you still doing the piano lessons?
M: I am! Yeah, I've been doing them once a week. They've been going very well. I've been going back to basics and learning scales and chords and practicing. I would really love to dabble, I mean it's a pipe dream, but I would like to actually write music and play it on the piano and so I feel like going back to basics and really learning the proper place for your hands during scales or chords will help with that.
A: It's so cool that you're doing that because I think sometimes, especially as an adult, you can just put ideas in your head that, "Oh I can't do that anymore,” “That's gone,” or "Oh I wished that I had kept doing the piano lessons all through my childhood and teenage years so that now I'd be good." But you forget that you can take lessons as an adult.
M: Totally! You can do it if you are busy. You practice for 20 minutes a day or something which actually makes a difference. Or you find one hour a week that you can work with a teacher.
A: You recently quit Twitter for half a second and then went back, which I totally understood both moves, but I’m curious what the reasoning behind the initial move was.
M: I know. I did it so randomly. I was sitting on the couch and I was just like, "I don't want to do this.” I felt bad because I felt that people assumed that it was because I was being antagonized or something and it wasn't that at all. I have very little of that and I can handle the little bit that I do get. I was just like, “I don't know what I'm doing with this” or “What am I saying?” and I didn't know what I was bringing to the table.
A: Did you feel pressure to bring something to the table?
M: Yeah, I felt like I wanted to have a voice politically, and as a feminist and all this stuff but I felt like there are so many other people articulating things so much better than I ever could. And it was just sort of like, "Why don't I just bow out?" And there's also so much antagonism of other people, even more so than my own personal antagonism of people saying mean things to me. It was more just seeing fighting of other people on Twitter a lot. A lot of arguing amongst people who agree with each other, which was exhausting for me to read. So now I'm back on it basically at the request of my team. Which I totally understood where they were coming from of just having it and letting it be there so that if I need it for any purpose, it's there.
A: On the topic of Twitter, you tweeted a really brave tweet in response to the mass leaked photos. (Editor’s note: On August 31, 2014, over 500 private pictures were leaked of a large group of celebrity women online. Mary was one of those women.) I remember feeling so proud of you for how you handled that whole situation because I felt like so many women were just kind of like, "Oh whoops" or "Haha, I guess this stuff happens,” which is fine, that's their way of dealing with it, but you stood up and said, “Hey, what you’re doing is not okay and I don’t approve of this.”
M: When I tweeted that, I thought it was me and 5 other girls. I had no idea that it was going to, within the next few hours, spread to over 100 actresses, which to me was just... As I was seeing all the media and stuff about it I was just becoming more and more angry and more and more disgusted and sickened. And that was when I had to get off Twitter too. Again it was one of those things that was just so much worse when you see it happening to people that you respect. And that you admire. Because when the stuff was directed towards me, yes it was awful, but it was also like, "You don't know what you're talking about." I know who I am so it can't really be that hurtful to me when it's just trolls attacking me.
A: But I think even for you to be able to come to that place so quickly is amazing, because I know for myself, even if I know that something that’s being said about me is not true but people are still saying it, then I'm hurt that they would even think that about me. But the fact that you were able to say to yourself, "I know that's not true, so fuck you!” I really admire that.
M: Right, well I do think some of those things seep in there a little bit. Or they hit a nerve of some insecurity. That can definitely affect me, but I was actually really... I did a session of therapy a few weeks after, with the purpose of talking about it and I was really surprised by how it didn't really phase me at all. I was just so pissed off about the scale of it. I didn't really get upset until I was talking about the other people that it happened to because I just couldn’t fathom... The scope of it was so disgusting to me. And such a large scale attack on women as a whole. Whereas if it had just been me, I probably would have been disgusted and violated but, you know, you kinda move on and get over it but when you are part of something that is making such a statement... And that was another thing that I think bothered me more than the tweet was that there were people in the media, there weren't that many of them, for the most part the media was really great about it, but the few people who were like, “They shouldn't have taken the photos in the first place.” I mean that was such a ridiculous statement. And that's why I took a Twitter break because you do get so incensed and want to tell everyone how ridiculous they are but at a certain point, you’re not going to change these people's minds. There were one or two people that tweeted me gross things who actually had large followings and that really pissed me off because those were people in the public eye. There was one radio personality or something that tweeted me something along the lines of, "If you didn't take the picture, it wouldn't have happened."
A: Which he obviously was just looking for a reaction so that on HIS radio show, he can say, "I tweeted at Mary Elizabeth Winstead and she said this back to me." It's all just trying to get a reaction and that's why it's so hard not to react but it's sometimes better not to.
M: Yeah it can be tough.
A: Your birthday is coming up. Do you have any goals or intentions for the year?
M: Oh gosh. I feel like every year lately is potentially a big year but every year it's been subtle changes. So part of me wants to say, "Oh I've got all of these things that I want to have happen in the next year,” but ultimately I hope that I'm at a place where I can be happy with whatever happens and where I cannot put pressure on anything. I hope that I'll be happy with the work I'm doing, that's my main goal, which I'm excited about the stuff that's coming up. But I hope that once I'm in it I'm still excited, doing work I'm proud of, and bringing something to it that is exciting me everyday.
A: There’s no doubt in my mind that you will accomplish all of that and more. You’re a gem and I can’t thank you enough for being my first Frankee.
// mary's favorite songs at the moment \\
all images by amanda crew except for scans of mary's personal polaroids.
interview edited & condensed.