The Verge: Mary Elizabeth Winstead

2010_scott_pilgrim_mary-elizabeth.jpgIt's not easy to play a cinematic dream girl, especially the inscrutable Ramona Flowers of Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, who literally meets our titular hero (played by Michael Cera) for the first time inside his own dream. Still, actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead pulls it off, and why shouldn't she, after braving challenges like Live Free or Die Hard, Death Proof, and the upcoming remake of The Thing? Just before Scott Pilgrim's release this past weekend, Winstead called up Movieline to discuss elements of a fight scene you didn't see, the film's reshot ending, and the credit she's got that's even weirder than Scott Pilgrim.

What was it like to walk around Comic-Con and see people who were dressed as Ramona?

It was pretty wild. It was overwhelmingly positive, though. I think we were all kind of nervous about it, like, "What are reactions going to be to this movie?" But people were just so excited about Scott Pilgrim and so passionate about the books, and you could just feel that everywhere. It was a really wonderful experience, especially the screenings. I don't think I've ever had as fantastic a moviegoing experience as seeing this movie with the fans at Comic-Con.

Did you watch all three screenings of it at Comic-Con?

I did, I went to all three. I wasn't planning on it, but we were introducing the films, and each time I was like, "OK, I've got to stay and watch a little bit of it," and then I would get sucked into it and watch the whole thing.

You were worried about what the reception might be, and I think some people wonder if there might be a generational divide with this movie, a la Fight Club, in that younger viewers will really respond to it, but older people might be left scratching their heads. Do you think there's any truth to that?

Yeah, I think that's a general concern that people seem to have, but what's been interesting is how many people who are not considered to be part of the target audience who've been coming up to me at press events or junkets to say, "I didn't think I was going to like it, but I loved it." It's interesting, because I'm getting so many of those comments that I wonder if that generational gap isn't as much of a concern as people think it is. I think it's a great story and really funny and refreshing and unique, and those are all things to me that any person who enjoys film would be entertained by. We'll wait and see, I guess.

2010_scott_pilgrim_mary-elizabeth.jpg

Ramona can very guarded. How do you play that without her coming off as unreadable?

It definitely was challenging, the most challenging part I ever had to play. It was a daunting task when I read it and started to prepare for it, like, "How do you play someone who's so guarded that you never really know what she's thinking or feeling, yet she's still human, so there still has to be some level of emotion there?" I had to figure out a way of keeping her in a very emotional place all the time, but at the same time, covering that all up and putting up a wall. It was really helpful to be able to talk to [comics creator] Bryan Lee O'Malley and get some insight into the character. Some of the things he told me really gave me an understanding as to why she is the way she is. Hopefully because I understood it, other people will understand it.

What kind of backstory did Bryan give you?

The main things that I really took with me were about her childhood, and several things that were very sad, these traumas that she had been through. It made me realize that she was a pretty dark character and somewhat sad, and this hardened shell that she puts around herself is just a facade to keep people at bay. She's got so much emotional baggage that she carries around everywhere she goes, so to me, I needed her to feel like she always had this weight on her shoulders, the weight of what she'd been through in her life.

You worked on this film for about seven months. Is that the longest amount of time you've ever spent on a movie?

Definitely. That was my life for quite a while. [Laughs]

What was the bulk of your fight training like?

We actually didn't really start into the fight choreography until a few weeks before shooting. Most of the training was to get us prepared physically and get us familiar with the fundamentals of kung fu. For two months or more -- because we actually started in LA before we went to Toronto, so it was more like three months -- every day, we would have bootcamp training in the mornings when we would do push-ups and run. Then we would rotate to different training sessions of kung-fu, or I would go practice wushu or go work with my hammer or staff, or Mae [Whitman] and I would be put together to spar and learn hand-to-hand combat. Once we had all the fundamentals down, then they would actually teach us choreography, which was almost like learning a dance.

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