The Truth About Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Mary Elizabeth Winstead began her acting career when she was just 12, and her star has been on the rise ever since, which is something she finds a bit humorous. She told Glamour in April 2017, "Most of my career I've been considered an up-and-comer, which is sort of funny sometimes when you're an up-and-comer after 15 years. But I'm very grateful to still be rising."

Starring in a bevy of horror films throughout her career, such as Final Destination 3 and 10 Cloverfield Lane, has earned her the title of "Scream Queen" within the horror community. Her roles in smaller independent films like Smashed and The Spectacular Now have made her an indie darling. And her role as Ramona Flowers in the cult-hit Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has made her a comic geek goddess.

The actress gravitated toward action-centric roles later in her career, including Ang Lee's Gemini Man and DC's Birds of Prey. While Winstead's on-screen talent is obvious, the details of her life and career are not. This is the truth about Mary Elizabeth Winstead.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead could have been so fetch

In 2004, Mean Girls a comedy about teen girls and their harmful high school cliques — hit theaters like a speeding bus, earning a whopping $24.4 million in its opening weekend. Over the years, the film has grown a cult fan following and has even spawned a Broadway musical.

While the film's cast is one of the reasons behind its success, audiences could have seen Mary Elizabeth Winstead playing Gretchen Wieners, a role that ultimately went to Lacey Chabert. Winstead had an opportunity to audition for the part — and she turned it down. 

During an interview with Collider Ladies Night in October 2019, Winstead confessed that she passed on the hit teen comedy, saying, "I remember it was partially because my mom, when I was younger, was really involved in my career and so we'd both read scripts and sometimes she would be like, 'Ew, that's terrible.' You know, like the humor was raunchy or whatever, and so she hated that script and was like, 'You're not auditioning for that.' And I just was sort of like, 'Oh, okay. Whatever.'"

Mary Elizabeth Winstead took what kind of lessons for Fargo?

In Season 3 of Fargo, Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Nikki Swango, a bridge-playing ex-con with a dark agenda. To get into character and to play bridge like a true competitor, Winstead prepped by taking bridge lessons.

When talking about the part on Late Night With Seth Meyers in June 2017, Winstead explained how difficult the game was to learn, saying, "I took some lessons because of [the show], and I was determined in the beginning to really become an expert and be like super method, but I'm not smart enough." The actress discovered learning bridge wasn't going to be easy early on because the information went "so far over" her head. She added, "It's so complicated and strategic and mathy ... there's so many numbers."

While Winstead thought her character would be playing a lot of bridge, she didn't anticipate the path Nikki would take over the course of the series. She told Variety in June 2017, "Where she ends up at the end of the season versus where she starts out — when we started, I was taking bridge lessons. I thought I would be playing bridge all season long."

Fargo helped Mary Elizabeth Winstead embrace her sexual side

When Mary Elizabeth Winstead landed the role of Nikki Swango in Season 3 of Fargo, she thought she would be playing a sweet, law-abiding character like cop Gloria. Instead, Winstead was pleasantly surprised to be given the layered role of Nikki, who oozes sex appeal.

The actress normally strayed away from "sexier" roles in the past, as she told Glamour in April 2017. "Sometimes you get in your head," she shared. "I didn't want to play these kinds of roles because I was like, 'I don't want to be seen that way. I don't want to be seen as sexy because that's not interesting or substantive.'" She continued, "But then you get a role like this [Nikki Swango], where she's sexy but she's also a billion other things, and then you can really embrace that side of her and yourself and feel good about it."

She noted, "It's taken me a lot of time to get to that place."

The movie role that shaped Mary Elizabeth Winstead as an actress

Mary Elizabeth Winstead has come a long way in her career since she began acting on Touched by an Angel at age 12. Over the course of her career, she has taken on more complex characters that have challenged and helped her grow as an actress, and the one role she credits as helping to shape her career is the 2012 drama Smashed, which co-starred Aaron Paul. In the film, Winstead plays a woman struggling to keep her alcoholism under control.

Winstead talked about the film and its influence on her life in an interview with Glamour in April 2017, saying, "That totally changed the way I saw myself as an actor and types of roles that I wanted to play. It really just set me in a clear direction in terms of what I wanted to do."

From playing the part of a struggling alcoholic, Winstead discovered she had the "complexity and capacity as an actor to play the kinds of roles" she wanted to play.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead's conservative upbringing kept her on the straight and narrow

When Mary Elizabeth Winstead took on the role of an alcoholic in the film Smashed, it changed her outlook on substance abuse in Hollywood and the issues enablers pose for individuals suffering from addiction. The actress admittedly has stayed away from alcohol and drugs in Hollywood, and she credits her strict upbringing for keeping her on a straight-and-narrow path. 

She told The Guardian in November 2012, "I wasn't allowed out anywhere. I had two friends. That was it. But I was also terrified of hanging out with other teenagers and going to parties. I didn't fit."

While her peers were having fun, the actress feared she "wasn't cool enough for them" and that they would consider her "nerdy and dull" for not partaking in drinking and doing drugs. Rather than focus her energy on making friends, Winstead focused all of her energy on the arts — and it paid off. 

Mary Elizabeth Winstead's mother accompanied her to acting jobs until she was 24

Hollywood can be a dangerous place for child actors, so it's no surprise that Mary Elizabeth Winstead's mother kept a close eye on her throughout the beginning of her career — up until the actress was 24 years old.

When discussing the #MeToo movement in Hollywood with Vulture in October 2018, Winstead explained that she didn't experience it much in her career because she was very sheltered, saying, "I was very lucky when I was younger and starting out -– I was incredibly sheltered, and my mom went with me everywhere until I was like, 24."

While Winstead was embarrassed at the time that her "mom [was] always around" and was "pretty overbearing," she was also thankful that she didn't experience anything harmful coming up in Hollywood. She said, "I'm also thankful because I really didn't experience those things — I just was never in a situation to be exposed to that particularly, or people were afraid of my mom."

Mary Elizabeth Winstead prefers to fly under the radar

Mary Elizabeth Winstead became an indie darling and developed a fan following with her work in cult-hit films like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and horror films like Final Destination 3. However, the actress has still maintained a relatively low profile in Hollywood that has helped her stay out of the spotlight when it comes to her personal life.

The actress enjoys her low-key celebrity status and likes not being recognized out in public a lot. She told Vulture in October 2018, "I definitely prefer to fly under the radar. I feel like I'm at the point now where I'm old enough and secure enough that if fame were to come, I'd be able to handle it and not get swept up in it. I can certainly see the ridiculousness of it, and I don't think that it would particularly affect me in a super deep way as it would have if it happened to me in my early 20s or something."

Mary Elizabeth Winstead was too tall to become a ballerina

When Mary Elizabeth Winstead was growing up, she was passionate about dance — especially ballet. While promoting her 2016 film 10 Cloverfield Lane, Winstead talked about attending dance conservatories with her sister — who grew up to become a dance teacher — and detailed her interest in becoming a ballerina to Interview magazine. 

The actress attended ballet school in New York when she was 12, with the intention of becoming a professional dancer, but she discovered that her body wasn't exactly the right fit. She said, "I was being groomed to be professional, and a lot of the professors and teachers there were drawn to me and thought that I could become a professional ballerina. Then, literally the next year, I went and auditioned for them again and they were so disappointed with how my body had changed and grown."

Winstead didn't enjoy the experience of having her body "sized up with measuring tape" and decided to stop pursuing dance. Eventually, she turned to acting and it became her career.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead quit her role on the soap Passions

One of Mary Elizabeth Winstead's earliest acting roles was on the NBC soap Passions. The actress was only 14 years old at the time, and landing a regular part on TV was a huge deal for her. Sadly, she learned that being a part of the show wasn't exactly what she had imagined for herself and her career, and she eventually quit.

She discussed the experience in an interview with Glamour in April 2017, saying, "Yeah, I quit. I know, right? I was the first person on that show to quit! It was after a year, and I thought, This isn't really what I thought acting was about. I wanted the opportunity to try and explore something else."

The actress went on to say that the soap was a "strange environment" to be a part of, and the show "wasn't really a great environment for the age" that she was at the time.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead aimed Sky High

When Mary Elizabeth Winstead was starting out as an actress, it didn't take her very long before she began landing roles in films. The actress never had any time to rethink her career or question attending college because, when she was 19, she got a role in Disney's Sky High, a film about a school for superheroes starring Kurt Russell. In the movie, Winstead plays Gwen, a popular student at Sky High who — spoiler alert! — actually turns out to be the villain. 

Winstead talked about getting the part in an October 2019 interview with Collider Ladies Night, saying, "I got lucky ... when I was 19, I got this movie, Sky High." She went on, "And that was like, 'Okay, you did it.' And then after that I never really went very long without working, so I got very lucky."

The Disney movie marked the first major movie role for the actress, who has gone on to lead a prosperous film career. After Sky High, Winstead went on to star in Final Destination 3, Black Christmas, and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof

The cruise that changed Mary Elizabeth Winstead's life

Mary Elizabeh Winsead married writer-director Riley Stearns in 2010. The couple began dating when Winstead was just 18, after they met on a cruise ship.

The actress explained meeting her husband on a Carnival Cruise to the Caribbean in an April 2017 interview with Glamour, saying, "I was with my friend and her grandmother because it was her graduation present. Riley was similarly tagging along on his vacation and was with a friend and his friend's parents." She continued, "My friend and I were trolling for boys, as you do when you're 18, and one of the first days on the cruise, I saw him and thought, That's my person!"

Winstead eventually went up to Stearns on the trip, and they became "inseparable" from that point on. They married, and Winstead later starred in Stearns' thriller Faults in 2014. Sadly, the couple split in May 2017.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead's controversial romance

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ewan McGregor played lovers on Season 3 of FX's Fargo, and soon the pair became a couple in real life. But their relationship was shrouded with controversy because both actors were married when their relationship went public.

In October 2017, after photos of him kissing Winstead were published by The Sun, McGregor announced he had split from his wife of 22 years. Winstead previously announced she'd split with her husband via a now-deleted Instagram post in May 2017. Coincidentally, McGregor and his wife separated in May 2017, according to People, who received info from an anonymous source.

At the time of writing, Winstead has not commented publicly about her relationship with McGregor, but the pair were still going strong as of June 2019. The real-life couple worked together again in Birds of Prey, which is not surprising, as the actress told WWD in September 2018, "I want to work with people that I enjoy, that I want to be around, and that I want to learn something from and be inspired by."

Mary Elizabeth Winstead's unlikely Cinderella story

Mary Elizabeth Winstead has turned down some acting roles throughout her career, and, when she was 18, she turned down a role in A Cinderella Story to go on a cruise with her friend. The role came at a time when Winstead's career was just starting to rise, so turning down the part wasn't an easy decision for the actress.

She told Glamour in April 2017, "It was a big stressful thing at the time because I was still just starting my career, so to get offered a part in a movie was a big deal. I was hemming and hawing about it and just decided, 'No, I'm going to go on this cruise.'"

The cruise would change the trajectory of her life because it was where she met her now-ex husband, Riley Stearns. Although, she did experience an acting "dry spell" after turning down the part, as she told Frank in February 2016. Thankfully, it didn't last long because she has gone on to star in several films since.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead never thought of herself as a "Scream Queen"

In the early stages of her career, Mary Elizabeth Winstead starred in several horror films, including Final Destination 3, Black Christmas, and The Thing. Although she never intended to seek out horror films, her acting choices earned her the title of "Scream Queen" within the horror community. Winstead felt unfairly pigeonholed by the title, telling The Guardian in November 2012, "I don't feel I ever really played that part."

Despite this, Winstead never spoke negatively about the genre. In fact, she looks at horror films in a positive way, telling Metro in March 2016, "I would get the question a lot: 'Why do you do horror films?' It's like, 'Where else do you see kicka** female heroines other than in genre films?'"

The actress noted that "if you're going to find a really great lead role where you get to do a lot of things and run through a range of emotions and you're not a big star, horror is kind of the place for you," adding, "When I started they welcomed me with open arms."