One of the films you have coming out later this year, Smashed, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January to rave reviews, particularly for your performance. Do you look at Smashed as a really important film for your career?
It is, definitely. When you come from doing genre films, like I’ve done, even if those films are great, as an actor you don’t really get as noticed as the special effects and all of the amazing visuals that surround you, and that’s what it should be—that’s why people go to see those films. Hopefully a film like Smashed will give me the opportunities to get more roles that are a bit more of a challenge.
There are films that I wasn't even allowed to audition for because people said, 'She's not a real actress—she's a popcorn flick actress.'
Was it difficult to get the Smashed role in the first place?
I expected it to be a lot harder. I don’t think they auditioned anybody else. I never expected them to give me the benefit of the doubt. I expected them to look at me and say, “You’re the girl who did a bunch of horror movies—I don’t know if you can handle this kind of a role.”
Has that actually happened to you?
Yeah, definitely. There were a lot of films that I wasn’t even allowed to audition for, because people said, “Well, she’s not a real actress—she’s a horror movie actress.” A “popcorn flick actress” is one of the things I’ve been called before. I’ve never felt typecast, but I’ve been pigeonholed, as far as the type of genre actress I am. That’s one thing I’m trying to break out of, because I’m more diverse than that.
Yet, to genre movie fans, you’re the coolest woman ever.
[Laughs.] It’s interesting. You go to some place like Comic-Con and you feel like a star, and everywhere else I go I don’t get the same kind of accolades. I’m always going to appreciate having that fan base, even if my career and popularity expands to other circles.
Does that make it easier to sign on to a project like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter?
Definitely, though I don’t really worry about that kind of stuff. I don’t understand why I should have to worry so much about what the reaction is going to be, because as long as I’m happy with it, then I can just be happy with it. To have a fan base that stands behind me makes me feel like I’m not making horrible choices.
To dudes who love Scott Pilgrim, you are the ultimate dream girl.
It’s great. [Laughs.] But the thing about Ramona Flowers is I’ll always feel like that’s more a by-product of the character than of me. I feel a separation there. People are obsessed with how cool that character is, and the way she dresses and carries herself. All of those things are different from me, so I certainly don’t take any of those compliments personally.
You realize you’re being way too modest, right?
[Laughs.] Hey, that’s how I see it. It’s all very flattering, though. Remember, I’m the girl who doesn’t know how to be sexy.
One thing you do know how to do, though, that people might be surprised about, is sing. At SXSW in March, you performed an original song with Dan The Automator, which is both incredibly random and seriously cool. Are you about to officially jump into music, too?
Yeah, it’s really cool, really random, but fun. We just started working together. He did a song for Scott Pilgrim, that’s how we met, and I’ve been a fan of his forever. His album Lovage is one the iconic albums of my life, so I’ve always been a fan of his.
I was really excited to meet him. I guess he saw something on the Internet of me singing, and he called me and asked if I wanted to collaborate on a song. So we did a song together, and then one song kind of turned into five, and then we just decided to make an album out of it. So we’re currently working on it, going at our own pace, and not putting too much pressure on ourselves. It’s really fun.
Is music something that you’ve always wanted to do?
You know, it is something I’ve always wanted to do, but on a really small scale. I always thought I’d sing in a movie, like I would do a musical. I don’t think I ever thought that I’d release an album. [Laughs.] So it’s really different. But I’m glad that it’s a collaboration; I don’t think I would’ve done it if it was a solo project that I’d done on my own. It’s great that I’m collaborating with somebody that I admire so much. It makes it really cool and make sense in my head as to why I’m doing it. I’m excited about it.
Do you guys have a name for the project yet, like his past projects Handsome Boy Modeling School or Deltron 3030?
I don’t know. When we were performing, we were like, “Oh, yeah… Do we have a name?” [Laughs.] We’re just so laid back about it, we haven’t thought about those things. I don’t know. I guess there’s a possibility that it might turn out to be just my name or something, but at the end of the day, even if it is that, it’s a collaboration. So I think we’ll come up with a name. We’ll see.
What kind of music are you guys making exactly?
The inspiration behind it is, like, French ’60s pop—Jane Birkin, and stuff like that. It’s kind of married with Dan’s sensibility, which is his beats and a little bit of that low-key hip-hop vibe. So it makes for something that’s very unique; it’s very lounge-y and light. It's got a little bit of a French quality.
Dan the Automator also has some really strong hip-hop roots. Are you a quote-unquote hip-hop head at all?
Not particularly. [Laughs.] Not other than Dan's stuff. Dan has such crossover appeal, from having lots of different types of fans. I love Handsome Boy Modeling School, Gorillaz, and all the stuff that he’s done that comes from the hip-hop world. So I have a little bit of hip-hop taste, but it doesn’t go much further beyond Dan’s stuff. [Laughs.]
So there won’t be any rap verses from you on the album?
[Laughs.] No, probably not. Maybe a little spoken-word, but in that French, chartreuse kind of way. Not really in the “white rapper” kind of way. [Laughs.]
WATCH MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD'S BEHIND-THE-SCENES VIDEO:
ADDITIONAL CREDITS: (HAIR) Rob Talty. (MAKEUP) Sammy Mourbit. (PROP STYLING) David Ross. (CLOTHING) FIRST IMAGE: Vintage Dolce & Gabbana dress from The Way We Wore. SECOND & FIFTH IMAGE: Dress by Alexander Wang / Cuff by Charles Albert. THIRD & SIXTH IMAGE: Dress by Nicole Miller / Shoes by Giuseppe Zanotti. FOURTH IMAGE: Jacket by Irina Shabayeva / Vintage Dolce & Gabbana Dress from The Way We Wore / Shoes by Giuseppe Zanotti.