It’s no secret that in Mary’s upcoming film Smashed, Mary’s character is an alcoholic. Screen Crave sat down with Mary and discussed playing a drunk and working on the film. As always, click on the link above to read the full interview:
Can you talk a little about playing drunk and not overdoing it?
Mary Elizabeth Winstead: It’s really daunting. Even the best actors – it’s just really hard. The whole thing about being drunk is that you’re out of control. If you’re acting you’re in control because you want to know what looks right and believable. It defeats the whole purpose of making it authentic. James (director/co-writer) found a book called The Power of the Actor, which is just a great book on acting. It has an entire chapter dedicated to playing drunk.
I used the author’s method and it worked really well. It’s almost like hypnoses, in a way. You take yourself through all the steps of what it feels like to be drunk and it plays a mind trick on you. You feel loose and out of your body. It helps me let go of the fear of worrying about whether it feels real or not. I felt really loosened and buzzed for sure. One of the author’s tricks is that you pretend that your left leg doesn’t work or your tongue doesn’t work. Something about you doesn’t work and you’re trying to compensate that and hide it.
When Smashed debuted at Sundance, the big buzz about it was you. Did you ever think, ‘God I should’ve done this sooner’?
Mary Elizabeth Winstead: (Laughs) Yes and, well, a similar thought. I always wanted to go there. I wanted to get one of those indie movies where you can really get a great performance and it goes to Sundance. That’s what I wanted. I rarely got those scripts and when I did, I didn’t get the part. I just think I wasn’t meant to do it sooner. I don’t know if I would’ve been able to play a role like this five years ago. I just don’t know. Back then I would like to have thought that I could, but maybe I couldn’t. And if I tried, it might’ve not worked out as well as it did this time. The years of working and growing as an actor – it all just came at the right moment for me. I felt like I was confident enough and ready enough to do it.
What was different in your preparation for an indie?
Mary Elizabeth Winstead: Not just it being an indie, but it being such a complex character and such a real person more-so than anything I had played before. Typically I’ve played things that feel more like they’re in the fantasy realm in some way. The preparation was much more exhausted for this because I’m playing a real person that’s going through something real. I can’t just pretend or wing it. It just wouldn’t be respectful to the material. It was a lot more prep work.