With titles like “Final Destination 3,” “The Ring Two” and “Black Christmas” in her filmography, actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead is no stranger to on-screen horror. So a prequel to “The Thing” was right up her alley. Plus, the Antarctic setting didn’t allow for much in the way of revealing costumes, which is something Winstead says she appreciated, considering how female characters tend to be portrayed in the horror and science fiction worlds. She shared her rather frank opinions on the topic with Metro, as well as her unique connection to the star of the original 1982 “the Thing.”
So, you’ve tangled with Kurt Russell in “Sky High,” sang with him in “Death Proof,” and now you’re in the prequel to one of his films.
I know! I’m always following Kurt Russell, for some reason.
Has he seen this yet?
I have no idea. I mean, he’s so not a show business-type guy that I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t know that this exists. He probably in passing has heard about it, but I doubt he’s worrying about it too much.
How did you feel about this being a prequel as opposed to a remake?
Knowing that it was from Strike Entertainment, it was sort of a clue that these were the kind of people — from their past work like “Dawn of the Dead” — they have a grasp on how to take material and make something new out of it that’s still respectful and interesting and not just a retread that’s more modern and more schlocky than the first one that came around. They were really intelligent, really adamant about keeping things practical, keeping things slow, keeping things in the tone and feel of the 80s version and not trying to tarnish the legacy of that by acting like it never existed.
And then there’s title. They’re both “The Thing.”
Yeah, I know. I think that with the people at Strike, Mark and Eric, I’ve read interviews with them where they’re basically like, “We just couldn’t win. Basically, any title we came up with just sounded stupid no matter what we tried, and so we just stuck with ‘The Thing,’ you know?”
Comparisons to Sigourney Weaver’s character in “Alien” is almost inevitable here.
I love them. I have a particular fondness for strong women on screen who are also realistic. Like, it’s really fun to see women kicking ass and being super-powerful, but at the same time I feel like there’s this niche that we don’t see of women who are just realistically strong and smart and take care of themselves but aren’t, like, beating up guys twice their size and knocking them out — things that just wouldn’t happen in the real world.
It’s interesting that filmmakers seem to think female characters have to be at one end of the spectrum or the other.
You know, every female character in a movie is over-sexualized or she’s played as shrill and neurotic or something that’s a very male perspective on different types of women that are out there. And I don’t know, I feel like a lot of actresses, when they play a super sexual character, they’re like, “No, this is empowering and women owning our sexuality” and stuff. I get that, but I don’t feel like that’s what we’re really seeing for the most part. We’re seeing something that very much made for the male gaze and very much made to make the male audience happy.
Well, you wear a parka for most of this movie.
Yeah, I know, it was awesome! I didn’t have to wear any makeup, and every day I would come to work and [director] Matthijs [van Heijningen] would look at me and be like, “Make her look worse!” It was nice. I liked it.
Fact File: Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Vital Stats: Raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, Winstead, 26, was trained as a singer and ballet dancer before turning to acting.
Scary Resume: She quickly established herself as a modern scream queen with turns in “Final Destination 3,” “The Ring Two” and “Black Christmas,” for which she was nominated for a Scream Award. She’s also faced peril on screen in Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” and as Bruce Willis’ daughter in “Live Free or Die Hard.”
Cult Status: Winstead is beloved by geeks the world over for playing hair dye-loving object of affection Ramona Flowers in 2010’s “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”
Next on tap: In June 2012, Winstead hits cinemas as Mary Todd Lincoln in the hotly anticipated “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” though she admits she didn’t get to see much action in it, as Lincoln “hides that part of his life from his wife,” she tells Metro. “It’s not till the very end that I get a little bit involved in that sort of stuff. I just got to be very feminine and demure but feisty.”