Mary Elizabeth Winstead hopes ‘Smashed’ role touches real lives
BY CINDY PEARLMAN October 17, 2012 4:26PM
This film image released by Sony Pictures Classics shows Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Kate Hannah, left, and Octavia Spencer as Jenny in a scene from "Smashed." (AP Photo/Sony Pictures Classics, Oana Marian)
Updated: October 17, 2012 4:26PM
There are many methods when it comes to playing drunk on the big screen. For the star of “Smashed,” one of them wasn’t opening a bottle of Jack.
“You can’t really get drunk,” laughs actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead. “I do know that actors have done that for scenes, but that wasn’t possible for me. I wouldn’t even know what the scene was about if I had the real stuff, which is why I wasn’t drunk at all.”
She also skipped watching “The Days of Wine and Roses” or other films where actors have famously played looped.
“Actually, I found a book of acting techniques about how to be drunk in a scene,” she confides. “One thing I did before my drunk scenes was spin around and around in circles. I’d be a little dizzy and begin to feel it.”
In “Smashed,” Winstead plays part of a married couple (with Aaron Paul) whose union is built on their love of drinking. When she decides to get sober, their relationship is tested. Winstead says that a generation will relate to “Smashed.”
“We didn’t want this to be about a meth addict. For most people that’s hard to relate to in life,” she says. “Drinking is different. People drink and many don’t necessarily see it as a problem. They go about their normal lives just like Kate does in this film. She’s young. She’s fun when she drinks. She doesn’t think she needs someone to swoop in and tell her she needs help.”
Winstead says she’s like a lot of people these days. “Life is stressful,” she says. “I’ll go to a party and have a drink or two. It loosens me up. For a lot of people, they don’t stop there. One or two drinks just open the door. They keep drinking because they like the person they are when they’re drunk. They struggle to be that person when they’re not drinking.”
A movie like “Smashed” was part of Winstead’s plan.
“I was seeking out smaller scripts,” says the 27-year-old from Rocky Mount, North CCarolina, who is best known for 2011’s remake of “The Thing,” and “Final Destination 3.” She also had roles in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and “Live Free or Die Hard.”
“For whatever reason, the smaller scripts weren’t coming my way that often. It was easier to get genre and action movies,” Winstead says.
She started having meetings with producers of smaller films and it led to getting the role in “Smashed.” “I really laid my heart out,” she says. “I said, ‘These are the movies I want to do. Please put me in one of them.’”
But the role wasn’t in the bag. Winstead knew the competition would be stiff, so she took it upon herself to audition several times. “I made my own audition tape and did six or seven scenes,” she says. “I covered all the big moments in the script. “In the end, they didn’t end up auditioning anyone else for ‘Smashed’.”
She says it wasn’t easy to tap into the feelings she needed to play someone who needs that drink.
“I’m the kind of person who had a good childhood,” she says. “I don’t really have many problems. But once I unlocked that… thing inside, I really could tap into that feeling of being out of control whether it’s about drinking or something else.”
She says that most people slip quietly into a drinking issue.
“I think the movie is about trying to grow up and be the person you want to be,” she says. “It’s about living your life honestly. In the end, trying to do that is all that we have to it. It’s all I have to do.”
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