To the list of actresses who’ve been directed by their significant others, add Mary Elizabeth Winstead. The “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and “Smashed” star both produced and stars in the twisty “Faults,” written and directed by her husband, Riley Stearn, in which she plays Claire, a young cult member being deprogrammed in a motel room. Not that she wasn’t nervous, at least at first.
Were you always supposed to play Claire?
I was. But in the beginning I was very nervous. There were a lot reasons, not the least of which was it was my husband’s film and he wrote it for me. I was worried I couldn’t do it justice — that I wouldn’t be what he imagined with it. I wasn’t sure I was the right person for the part. [Laughs] I didn’t know if I had the enigmatic, odd quality she needed to have. Once we started shooting I started to have fun with it.
It’s a tricky role, starting with how you have to seem human and brainwashed at the same time.
I was so afraid of being inauthentic in some way. I didn’t want her to spacey. She does claim to have these connections to other worlds and higher powers. I didn’t want her to be this New Agey weirdo. I wanted her to feel more authentically magnetic. She has to feel like a real person.
Cults are a fascinating issue, because they involve sometimes perfectly rational people subsuming their personalities for a crazy idea.
I think that’s the real horror. It’s scarier than thinking someone breaking into your house and grabbing you or something. To me the psychological horror of thinking that as strong or smart as you think you are, you’ll always be vulnerable to that kind of manipulation. That anybody could be vulnerable to that is really horrifying to me. [Laughs]