The first time she got positive feedback as an actor was when she was 10-years-old and played the lead in her schools production of Romeo and Juliet. She was “obsessed with the role” and soon realized that “the people weren’t just characters but they were people and they were getting to do something that was so fun and I wanted to be a part of it.”
More praise came later in life. “I think this independent film I did called Smashed with James Ponsoldt, who is the loveliest, most talented director who really gave me a chance to spread my wings a little bit. Even though that was a small movie, I think that when people saw it they were able to see more of a range of what I can do. From that I’ve done a lot of different types of things—TV or genre films or whatever it may be, but a lot of those parts come back to Smashed because somebody saw that I did good job. I’m thankful to that film.”
Winstead recalled a time early on in her career when she though she lost out on a role she really wanted. “There’s actually a time when I got cast in something and it was announced that someone else was cast. I hadn’t been told yet if I had the role and I had a breakdown because I really wanted it and it was announced on this website that this other girl had gotten it. I was so sad and called my agents and said, ‘You guys didn’t tell me this other person got the role!’ They were like, ‘No, they haven’t decided yet.’ Then two hours later I got the call that said I had the role.”
She didn’t fess up to what role that was but she did land in 10 Cloverfield Lane and she remembers it being “an odd thing. The first conversation, it wasn’t a full-out offer but it was sort of, ‘They’re really interested in you for this part in this top secret J.J. Abrams-produced movie. They want you to read the script and see what you think before they officially offer it to you.’ So it already came to me shrouded in secrecy and was already very hush-hush.”
Winstead noted how she was allowed to read over the script but it was off limits to her agents or anyone else around her. “It was sent to me as a file that would destruct after you read it once,” she said. The 31-year-old actress says that’s now usually what happens when she gets a new script. “Normally it’s just the agent and we have the conversation. Sometimes I open it up if I want a bit more of an opinion—sometimes my husband will read it, my mom will read it, my sister will read it. But usually it’s after the fact. Once I’ve accepted a role, I’ll let my parents and my sisters read it because they find it entertaining. If you let too many cooks in the kitchen it could cloud your vision of what you want to do.”
Mary Elizabeth Winstead can be seen in 10 Cloverfield Lane in theaters now.