Mary Elizabeth Winstead (born November 28, 1984) is an American
actress. Mary has been called a scream queen, à la Jamie Lee Curtis, because
of her roles in the horror films Final Destination 3, Black Christmas and
Death Proof, but she has also branched out into other genres, including
comedy (Sky High), drama (Bobby) and action (Live Free or Die Hard). She was
nominated for a Young Artist Award for her work in Passions, and she was
part of the cast of Bobby nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award.
Winstead was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, the daughter of Betty Lou (née Knight) and James Ronald Winstead. When she was five, her family moved to Sandy, Utah, a Salt Lake City suburb. Her interest in performing art also began to emerge with interests in ballet and acting. As a child, Winstead appeared in the Mountain West Ballet's version of The Nutcracker. Hoping to become a ballerina, at the age of eleven, she received the opportunity to study dance in a summer program of the prestigious Joffrey Ballet School in New York City. There, she studied ballet and jazz dance, but decided to also study acting. Winstead ended up appearing on Broadway during Donny Osmond’s successful run of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She was also a member of the International Children's Choir during her youth and honed her skills performing at her church.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead began her acting career in the late 1990s, guest starring in episodes of the CBS dramas Touched by an Angel and Promised Land, before being cast as Jessica Bennett in the NBC soap opera Passions, a role she played from 1999 to 2000. She subsequently appeared in the short-lived CBS drama series Wolf Lake (2001-2002), and in the made-for-television film Monster Island (2002).
Trying her hand at comedy, she went the independent film route as the Jewish daughter of a large, zany family in the indie feature Checking Out, but her screen time fared better in the more mainstream Walt Disney Pictures confection Sky High, which was both financially and critically successful. She starred as Gwen Grayson, the in-disguise alter ego of the supervillain Royal Pain.
After the exposure Sky High provided, 2006 saw her forge a professional relationship with the creative team of James Wong and Glen Morgan, formerly best known for their memorable contributions to The X-Files. She and her co-star, Ryan Merriman, landed in the path of the grim reaper’s master plan in Final Destination 3. She had failed to land a part in the second film in the trilogy, but found her place in the third instalment, which to this day is the most successful of the trilogy. Morgan and Wong wanted to collaborate with her again and convinced her to appear in their sorority slasher Black Christmas. The film, however, failed with critics and viewers. One day, she inadvertently received a chance to lampoon horror scream queens when The Tonight Show host Jay Leno, unaware of who she was, knocked on her front door and included her in a comedy segment spoofing horror movies.
The same year, Mary Elizabeth Winstead appeared in Emilio Estevez's Bobby, a valentine to the politics and morals of Robert F. Kennedy, which drew moderate critical attention, and became a minor box office success. The film's cast included Laurence Fishburne, Anthony Hopkins, Ashton Kutcher, William H. Macy, Demi Moore, and Sharon Stone, but most of her scenes were with Shia LaBeouf and Brian Geraghty. She and her co-stars were nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Cast in a Motion Picture.
In 2007, she appeared in a pair of high-profile event films. Quentin Tarantino cast her as a well-intentioned but vapid and naïve actress in his high-speed segment of Grindhouse called Death Proof, his half of a double-billed feature. The film failed to produce ticket sales, but drew critical acclaim. Death Proof is also the second film to feature both Winstead and Kurt Russell. The same summer, hot off the heels of its release, Winstead received another shot at action as Lucy McClane in Live Free or Die Hard co-starring Bruce Willis. The film earned over $130 million domestically and drew excellent reviews, making it the highest grossing film that features Winstead.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead has recently screen tested for the role of Wonder Woman in the film adaption of Justice League.
It was also announced on May 16, 2008, that Winstead would co-star opposite Michael Cera in forthcoming comic-book adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Filming is due to start in early March 2009.
This Mary Elizabeth Winstead Biography Page is Copyright © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub