Now that she's mastered the horror and comic book realms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is staking her claim to blockbuster fame in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Not that she’s ready to abandon the nerds, though.

This feature appears in Complex's June/July 2012 issue.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead has a soft spot for cinephiles, because, well, she is one. This past February, the 27-year-old actress visited her favorite movie theater, the New Beverly Cinema, a Los Angeles old-school revival house, to introduce a midnight screening of her 2010 flick, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, an adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s popular graphic novel series. Though it only earned $31 million, against a reported $60 million budget, Scott Pilgrim is a modern-day cult classic—as evidenced by the full house that greeted Winstead that night. “They do Scott Pilgrim midnight screenings once a month, and they’re always packed,” she explains. “It felt like I was in front of people who really appreciate me.” Read: fanboys who fancy her like none other.

The North Carolina native has made a career out of bringing the fantasies of male comic book fans to celluloid life. In addition to her iconic Scott Pilgrim turn as nerd dream girl Ramona Flowers, Winstead also played the short-skirted cheerleader in Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse: Death Proof (2007), kicked ass in 2007’s Live Free or Die Hard, and fended off aliens in last year’s sci-fi/horror remake The Thing. And Comic-Con regulars have adored it all.

But they ain’t seen nothing yet. In this year’s batshit summer blockbuster Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (produced by Tim Burton), Winstead portrays a fictionalized version of Mary Todd Lincoln, whose soon-to-be-presidential hubby, Honest Abe (played by Benjamin Walker), rids the 1800s of ferocious, bloodthirsty night creatures with a gun-axe. It’s exactly the kind of movie made for a killer midnight screening at the New Beverly. But if all goes as planned, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter should be much more than a cult favorite. Everyone involved is gunning for box-office dominance.

The historically skewed epic exemplifies Winstead’s endearing willingness to embrace out-there genre fare. That same fearlessness will be on display when Smashed, her critically acclaimed independent film about alcoholism, debuts later this year. And to tell the truth, she’s more than ready for the change. “It’s great to get a chance to do a film that really showcases what I can do,” she says. “Hopefully that will open some doors for me.” It’s time to turn the key.

 

There's this image of a hot woman with squinty eyes and pouty lips that has been trademarked as 'The Sexy Look,' and that's not my look. I like to think I'm sexy in my own way.

 

You’ve played some tough women, but you’re looking fiercer than ever for this cover shoot. Are you this intense in real life?
[Laughs.] I’m the total opposite of that. The one thing that’s difficult for me, and it’s one thing I had to bring out in this shoot, is being “sexy.” It’s weird to be told to be sexy, because I never know what that means exactly. I can never try to be sexy. [Laughs.] It’s too awkward. I don’t like to do the whole I’m-gonna-come-get-you face—that doesn’t suit me.

And everyone’s interpretation of “sexy” is different. The fans of your movies would find the sight of a cute girl reading a George R.R. Martin novel to be incredibly sexy.
[Laughs.] Exactly. It’s an issue of what we’ve come to think of as “sexy” in our culture, from the things that we’ve seen on billboards and stuff like that. There’s this image of a hot woman with squinty eyes and pouty lips that has been trademarked as “the sexy look,” and that’s not my look. I like to think I’m sexy in my own way.

No arguments here. What do you find sexy?
It’s more about a sense of humor and kindness. In a guy, that instinct to take care of another person is always very sexy to me—a guy who’s chivalrous, in that old-fashioned way.

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