A Talk with Mary Elizabeth Winstead About ‘Alex of Venice’

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0TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL: About a week ago, I sat down during the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival with actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Oddly enough, due to scheduling it was directly before I got to see her new movie Alex of Venice, so this was sort of a more wide ranging chat, covering a lot of bases. Luckily, Winstead is a pleasure to talk with, and it turned out her film is pretty solid (as you can see in my festival review right here). We got along pretty well and the time flew by. Below you can see the transcript of the highlights of our brief yet enjoyable interview (I trimmed where we got way too off topic), and definitely look out for her top notch performance in the film when it opens later on this year.

Joey Magidson: Hello.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead: Hello!

JM: It’s funny to be meeting you now, considering a few years ago I basically spent most of my free time talking about your performance in Smashed…

MEW: Aw! Thank you!

JM: The site I write for is very Oscar focused…

MEW: Oh right!

JM: So when you see something that is sort of a longer shot but deserves the attention, you want to do your part and at least get it seen.

MEW: You know, I appreciate that so much, since you need people to talk about those kinds of movies.

JM: When I interviewed James (Ponsoldt) for The Spectacular Now, he was super excited and grateful as well, especially when he found out how much I liked his new one too, I’m sure.

MEW: Awesome! James is amazing.

JM: It’s interesting for me to see how your career has progressed, especially since early on for you there seemed to be a lot of horror films that you were in…

MEW: Yeah!

JM: I don’t remember if you died a lot…

MEW: You know, I only died once!

JM: You’re right actually.

MEW: I kind of lucked out.

JM: You got to be a final girl, basically.

MEW: Yeah.

JM: Between the remake of The Thing and Scott Pilgrim, and those sorts of things, you kind of developed a connection with comic book culture, which has to be unusual.

MEW: They’re a loyal fan base, that’s for sure.

JM: The good thing is now you can sort of bring them along as you transition more and more into different sorts of roles.

MEW: Yeah, yeah.

JM: That’s always the hope, right?

MEW: Definitely.

JM: So I actually see this movie right after our talk…

MEW: Oh nice.

JM: Have you worked with an actor turned director before? I’m racking my brain…

MEW: Actually no, and I’m going to feel terrible if I’m not remembering one…

JM: I was going to say…

MEW: No, I have! But it was such a small part. It was for Emilio Estevez.

JM: For Bobby!

MEW: Right, for Bobby, and he was lovely as well. Kind of similar to Chris (Messina) in that way, just everyone loves him and a lot of goodwill there all around, people rooting for him.

JM: When this came about, were you offered the part of did you audition?

MEW: I auditioned. It was actually one of those things where I met him and I’d heard things, but I’d loved the script and wanted to audition, not just to meet. I think he was concerned that I wasn’t the right fit, age wise, the character was written to be 35 and at that point I was 28, so it was the sort of thing where he wanted me to come in and prove that I could be a mom and, you know, this character, who’s been in this role her whole life, a young, working mother. The first time I went in, they wanted me to come back looking frumpier, so I went shopping and changed my look head to toe, so it took some convincing, but it was one of those roles that I knew that I just needed to play, you know? It just felt very right for me, so I wanted to prove that I was right for it.

JM: A lot of people get caught up in actors and actresses having to be that exact age, but it’s worse for women, I think.

MEW: I know, right? The one thing I’ve noticed, for me, is that when I’m up for parts against much older men, I never get it because they say I look too young and if you want a really sexy type girl it’s fine, but it doesn’t work for me. They usually want someone more stereotypically sexy.

JM: It’s weird, especially since I have no grasp of age anymore.

MEW: Me either. From like 20 to 35, it all looks the same to me.

JM: Exactly. I’m just glad I don’t like young girls or anything, you know?

MEW: (laughs)

JM: Well, here at least you get to play an older part for a change.

MEW: I’m definitely drawn to that sort of a role. Right now I’m in that sort of in between age, there’s just not a lot of parts out there for women my age, they’re mostly for women a little younger or a little older than I am. I’m also just not really interested in playing the ingenue anymore, so I’m trying to play a little older, since I just think that’s where the better roles are now.

JM: Going forward, what are you looking to do? You’ve hit almost every genre, short of maybe a zany comedy…

MEW: I know! It’s kind of weird, I sort of feel like I’ve reached a point now where I’m looking for the best roles I can find. It’d be nice to find something that would reach a wider audience but I was also really proud of, but it’s really hard, and it’s always kind of a risk. You can do something that reaches a wider audience and it turns out terrible, or with indies, they’re fun and a bit safe, in that if it doesn’t work out there’s less risk, but you wish it would get seen on a bigger scale. I’m certainly proud of this one, but yeah…you just wish they would get seen on a bigger scale.

JM: Definitely. It’s fun to watch how people evolve, and you certainly want to support people you’ve enjoyed in prior works. I know that Scott Pilgrim is pretty much universally loved, but I wonder if that had made $100 million if things wouldn’t have gone a different way, maybe even a worse way?

MEW: Absolutely. That’s totally true. I think I’ve been almost lucky in a way, in that I never broke out completely, especially at a place in my career where I’d be boxed in or wouldn’t really know what I wanted. I’m really only now at a place where I know what I want to do, so I’m really excited that I got to this point sort of on my own.

(The wrap up signal came now)

JM: So to wrap up, what do you have coming up next?

MEW: I have a couple movies coming out. I have a movie called Kill the Messenger with Jeremy Renner coming out, and it’s such and interesting story and he’s fantastic in it. And I just did a movie with my husband called Faults that I’m super proud of. Hopefully that’ll be out soon. And I also just did a pilot, so I’m hoping to enter the TV world soon.

JM: Everyone is doing TV these days.

MEW: There’s just better roles for women there now.

JM: I can understand that.

MEW: Totally.

JM: Awesome, well congrats on this movie again.

MEW: Thank you! Thanks so much.

There you have my all too brief chat with Mary Elizabeth Winstead. I could have shot the breeze with her all day long. Be sure to check out my review of Alex of Venice here, and stay tuned for more on it as 2014 progresses…

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!

  • Joey Magidson

    I hope you enjoy!