Mary Elizabeth Winstead is here to get wasted. measuredly wasted, sure, but wasted nevertheless. Tonight, her swill-sidekick will be Emmy-friendly actor Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad, and their DD will be film director James Ponsoldt, who unites the two as drunken lovers in forthcoming drama, Smashed. It’s enviable “research.” But first, let’s talk about Winstead’s lead in The Thing, which did its thing through theatres last month. It’s not only an extraterrestrial arctic slaughter-fest wherein Winstead plays a parka-swaddled grad student eluding a transmutative, homicidal thing, but a prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece of the same title.
Regards the reprisal of classics like Carpenter’s, Winstead remarks, “With The Thing, there’s this fan base that loves the original. Then there’s this whole other group of people that are like, ‘I like that—it looks awesome,’ and have no clue about John Carpenter’s. And that’s the gap they’re trying to bridge. But I think that there are a lot of reprisals that are not being done with the same kind of respect as the The Thing, and I think it’s getting out of hand. We really do need to go back to original material and we need to seek out writers who have original ideas.”
Winstead, who hails from the ever-expressive, thespian-inclined Sandy, Utah, splashed—or do we say slashed?—onto the silver screen after time spent on the stage and a bit of daytime television, quickly becoming a go-to girl of sorts for a slew of horror films, most notably Black Christmas, Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, and next year’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, shot in New Orleans alongside recent Flaunt coverboy, Dominic Cooper. Winstead contends her perceived “grounded” and “people-pleasing” demeanor fares well with horror creators; the actor, as you’ll witness in The Thing—is often the survivalist anchor, the wise leader, when blood and guts threaten to blood and guts you.
Winstead’s wings have fanned wider of late, though, and she’s found herself in meatier fare: a handful of shorts, the aforementioned Smashed, and prior, the perplexingly box office disastrous Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which starred nearly every indie-twee icon you could shake a veganaise slathered mock-ruben at. Winstead says of Smashed, “I’ve spent years just wanting to do something like this—years of wanting to do something small and performance-focused, and everybody saying, ‘You’re not a financial name. We need somebody who’s a financial name.’ And then finally realizing that that’s not always true. You just have to go out there and find the people that are willing to make movies just for the sake of making good movies. You have to get out there and do it.”
It’s a refreshing point of view from a girl whose prominence included a pit stop for Final Destination 3. Girl’s goin’ all indie. Still, that survivalist vision and steadfast purpose that has charmed many a filmmaker bleeds right on through. “We’re trying to make it so that it’s a story about somebody surviving, and not a sad, depressing story of this person who’s messed up their life,” she says of her Smashed character who attempts sobriety while her lover, Paul’s character, continues to booze. “Something that’s a little bit more powerful and forward moving than that. That’s the main challenge of it—not getting bogged down and indulged in the emotion of it, of just sobbing and crying.”
Paul arrives at this particular French bistro, ready for “research.” It’s time to conclude. The tab’s weathered a few martinis and Winstead and her interviewer are beginning to exemplify what she describes as the traits of drunkenness: “You try to overcompensate for everything,” she says. “Everything isn’t working right so you’re trying to overcompensate because you know your words aren’t coming out the way that you want them to. And I think it’s loudness. Everybody gets louder. Everybody tries harder to be smart, because they’re really trying to get their point across.” Your interviewer shouts a variety of retorts at Winstead, but only before regaling the lovely lady with memorized Rimbaud verse, a spectrum of innovative algorithms, a tale of brute heroism, and something about… Something about what?