Mary Elizabeth Winstead high kicks as Ramona Flowers, the object of Scott’s lust…
Angelina may be hogging the headlines but colour us excited about summer 2010’s other ass-kicking, pain-dispensing heroine: Ms Flowers. Funky, punk-sexy and prone to dying her locks a multitude of shocking shades, the rollerblading Amazon delivery girl lays down an unexpected gauntlet to indie-bassist Scott (Michael Cera). To win her heart? He must vanquish Ramona’s seven evil exes, including Brandon Routh’s vegan rock god and Chris Evans’ asshole movie-star.
When we met up with Winstead on Pilgrim’s Toronto set last summer, she claimed to be loving her character’s frequent makeovers, achieved with wigs the colour of candy floss and anti-freeze. “It’s been cool for me,” she drawls. “I’m more used to this than I am my normal hair now, so I’m going to be extremely bored with myself when this is over.” Unlike the rest of the world, who are about to be extremely un-bored by the 25-year-old actress, who – let’s face it – has had a mostly manky career of teen telly, Disney fluff (Sky High) and bland scream queendom (Final Destination 3, Black Christmas) before Tarantino rescued her from the starlet bin. Her vapid actress may not have been front and centre in QT’s Death Proof, but that clingy cheerleading outfit ensured Winstead ended up burnished onto most viewer’s brains by the time they left the cinema.
It’s Edgar Wright’s slacker-meets-supernatural genre splicer, however, that will swell the global ranks of Winstead worshippers. She set out to make Ramona tough and mysterious but also sad and vulnerable, as would befit a girl whose abridged relationships seem to generate nothing but psychotic malignancy. “In retrospect she may have been a bit cold-hearted to some of them,” muses Winstead, in sanguine reply to how one woman can spawn so many demonically angry ex-lovers…
Surprising even herself, the coolest part of the Pilgrim shoot for Winstead was getting to do “awesome, insane” stunts, from backflips to tumbling down a flight of stairs. Thanks to the actress’ limber flexibility, the film’s stunt team even incorporated her signature move into the martial arts-flavoured action sequences – a high kick in which her leg ends up beside her head… (Time for an ice shower, boys.) Which obviously comes in handy when Ramona’s smacking it down with the likes of bitter Sapphic ex, Roxy Richter. And did we mention? Her battle armoury also includes a giant hammer. “I get to use it like a really cool weapon, kung fu-style,” Winstead says. “It was just really fun to get to learn that and execute it in a way that looks cool on screen. It feels really rewarding.” The downside of swinging this massive appendage was that Winstead pulled out her shoulder and developed a brutal case of tendonitis. “It was tough,” she admits, “but I definitely felt tough and crazy.”
It’s not only her body that’s supple, either. From John McClane’s nearly-plain-Jane daughter in Die Hard 4.0, to Death Proof’s apple-pie sexbomb and now Scott Pilgrim’s alt-queen, she’s proving to be a highly malleable screen presence, possessing an intriguing sultriness that can be partially attributed to the fact she’s distantly related to Ava Gardner. She’s willing to put in the hours, too: Winstead admits that Wright’s meticulous methodology made for a taxing shoot, with the director pressing for take after take to get the exact hand, head or eye movement required. But it was a price Winstead was happy to pay. “The stuff that I’ve seen is just ridiculous, it looks so awesome,” she says. “I was happy to oblige.”
And while she expresses pre-release sympathy for hardcore fans of the graphic novel who will undoubtedly feel let down by their favourite missing bits, Winstead assures us that deprivation will not be the overriding feeling Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World leaves us with. “There’s so much stuff going on in this movie as it is,” she grins. “It’s going to be super fast-paced and crazy, and there’s going to be so much to take in. They’ve done a great job…” As Scott might say, it looks like it’s going to rock ultimate.