Mary Elizabeth Winstead On Set Interview SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD

     May 25, 2010

Mary Elizabeth Winstead walks into the room and I’m meeting Ramona Flowers.  It’s probably got something to do with the hair.  Winstead plays the beautiful and enigmatic Ramona Flowers in Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.  In the books by Bryan Lee O’Malley, one of Ramona’s trademarks is that she’s constantly dying her hair different colors.  So when Ms. Winstead walked into the room during my visit to the set of the film last July, she was sporting green hair.  It looked good.

But Ramona is more than a hairstyle.  We spoke with Winstead about how O’Malley helped give her some background on her character, which was especially valuable since he had written the final book yet.  We also talked about working a stunt-heavy film like this one, the film’s music, and working with Wright, among other topics.  But I think what you’ll take away most from this interview is about how Ramona will be portrayed in the film, and it’s much deeper than just green hair.

Hit the jump to read the interview.  Scott Pilgrim vs. The World hits theaters on August 13th.

Before we start off, check out the amazing trailer.  Just do it.  DO IT.

This is one of the many hairstyles of Ramona?

MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD: Yes.

What color is that?

WINSTEAD: Uh, some form of green. It’s green.

How’s it been over the course of the movie so far?

WINSTEAD: It’s been great—the hair, or–? Uh, it’s been fun. I’ve gotten to be several different bright colors. Um, which has been cool for me. I’m actually more used to this than I am my normal hair now, so I don’t know. I’m going to be extremely bored, when this is over, with myself.

How many different styles have there been?

WINSTEAD: Uh, there’s three different colors and kind of, yeah.

Were you a fan of the comics?

WINSTEAD: I’ve think we’ve all drawn everything from the book, really. I mean that’s all we have to go on. But it’s been great because I’ve got to talk with Bryan Lee O’Malley a lot and them Michael Bacall on just sort of for backstory and things you don’t get from the books about her. Um, just sort of where she comes from and thinks that happened to her that make her the way she is. Which is cool. Like she still is extremely mysterious in the film and you still don’t really know that much about her, but me as an actress, I got to kind of learn it.

What’s your favorite part of shooting? What do you like the most?

WINSTEAD: think the thing that I’ve found that I really love about this, which was kind of surprising to me, was the stunts. I feel like I’ve fallen in love with doing stunts, and I think part of it is the stunt team is so cool and they’re so much fun to be around and they make you feel so motivated to do a good job that I’ve kind of completely embraced that and that—

Can you talk about some of the stunts? Like what’s the coolest thing–?

WINSTEAD: Yeah. Well we’ve got to do a lot of kung fu choreography, which was really cool. Like I have, you know, like the big hammer that I use, kind of like a staff in a sense. So I get to use that like a really cool weapon. Kung fu style. And it’s just really fun to get to learn that and execute it in a way that looks cool on screen. It just feels really rewarding.

Did you do a lot of training for that stuff?

WINSTEAD: Yeah. I was really, really eager to get into this. Like way back in November I started training on my own and then in January we started training with the stunt team in LA and then came out here in February and continued training and stuff until April when we started shooting. So it was pretty extensive.

Are you doing a lot of wire assists or–?

WINSTEAD: A little bit, yeah. There’s a little wire work, which is so much fun. You can fly, it’s amazing. But I’ve had to mostly just sort of kung fu, you know, ground work. Footwork and stuff like that.

Obviously with you guys condensing so much material into the film, there are things that have not made their way to the screen. Is there anything that you love from the books that you miss that you weren’t able to do in the movie?

WINSTEAD: Oh, man, I don’t know if I—I might get in trouble if—there are a couple of things, but I don’t know. I probably, it would be wrong of me to sort of give that away I think, but yeah. There’s so much material like you said in the books, and there’s so much stuff going on in this movie as it is. It’s going to be like super fast-paced and crazy, and there’s going to be so much to take in. So I think that they had to kind of choose wisely what to keep in, and I think they did a great job.

–your battle with Knives

WINSTEAD: Yes.

What was that like?

WINSTEAD: Awesome. We had a great time fighting each other, and training together and getting to know each other. She’s like the coolest girl in the world and I feel really lucky to have been, you know, put together with her and everything. It was really fun and that’s when I get to bring out my hammer out…It was really cool.

There’s a really cool old school video game vibe to this film.

WINSTEAD: Yes.

Did you grow up on video games, and what are some of your favorites?

WINSTEAD: I definitely was around video games. I’m one of five kids and my brother was really into it and stuff. I can’t say I was much of a gamer growing up or that I am now, but I’m certainly part of that culture or it’s part of, you know, the sort of time that I grew up in. So I get all the references and I totally get the humor and it’s really fun. This—it’s kind of a mash up of so many different genres and things that kind of, sort of are just part of youth culture right now. Music and action and video games, and it’s kind of amazing to see it all piled into one film.

I just wondered if you’re a comic book fan. And also, after talking to Bryan, do you know the ending of the books?

WINSTEAD: Uh, last time I talked to Bryan I don’t think he even knew exactly what the ending was going to be, so no, I don’t. I think from what I’ve heard, it’s not going to be the same as the film, so. I think that will be kind of cool for fans, in my opinion, to have sort of two different versions of, for the story to end with, and they can sort of find their favorite, maybe. But yeah. I don’t know what that ending’s going to be.

One of the things about the books is there’s a lot of character stuff, there’s a lot of day-to-day stuff…were they able to keep a lot of the stuff in or is there—

WINSTEAD: Oh definitely, tons of stuff. I mean every character you totally, you know, the full fiber of the personality is kept in the film, and all of those little moments, all those funny little tidbits are all in there. Which is so important, I mean, that’s what’s so great about the books, is, you know, those two worlds are sort of, the slacker world of just comedy and laziness and then this crazy, over the top action, supernatural world, and you know, combined. To me it’s so much like Spaced in that way. Um, which I love so much, so I think fans of that and fans of the comics are going to really see that up on the screen.

We’ve heard about the different crazy hairstyles here, what about outfits?

WINSTEAD: Yeah, lots of cool outfits. Ramona’s definitely got a unique style, and they really did a great job of keeping to Bryan’s artwork on that, as well, which is funny to him, because I think he didn’t really think about fashion when he was writing or drawing it necessarily, but now he gets to see it.

Did any single costume stand out for you that you’re going to wear?

WINSTEAD: Uh, I love anything that’s like, you know, real iconic Ramona outfits, like that you remember from the books. Like there’s an outfit I have that is pretty much exactly like the cover of book two, so that’s really cool, it’s like oh, I’m in the cover of book two outfit today. It’s really cool.

This is definitely Wright’s biggest movie.

WINSTEAD: Yeah.

I mean, this is huge. Sort of, could you tell us what it’s like working with him on this and sort of how he’s been dealing with this gigantic bump up?

WINSTEAD: I’m just kind of in awe of him every day because I sense the huge pressure that must be on his shoulders, and it’s amazing just to see him come to work and be able to laugh and be carefree and have a good time, and still have that kind of enthusiasm about making the film on a day-to-day basis, when it’s got to be extremely stressful. I don’t know how he does it. But yeah, he has that kind of child-like excitement about, you know, about just getting to make a movie, so I think no matter how big or little it is he’s always going to have that, which is really great.

Indie rock plays a big part in this as well. I was wondering if you have your favorite band from the movie or music in general?

WINSTEAD: Yeah, I think, I don’t really know what’s been released as far as who’s doing the music, but—

The lead singer from Sloan is—

WINSTEAD: Yeah, Chris Murphy, he’s so funny, he’s so cool to be around, he’s awesome. He’s been kind of helping the guys in the band and Allison’s [can’t hear] with sort of learning the music and learning to play instruments and stuff. And I kind of, I’m envious. I wish I could have a little bit of a part of that, because that seems so fun. I get to kick ass, that’s cool too. Yeah, he’s really cool.

Tell us a little bit about Scott, as a character. Is he the kind of guy you could, you’d hang out with in real life, do you think?

WINSTEAD: Probably, yeah. I could see how he might, you know, get on a girl’s nerves occasionally. Um, but he’s a sweetheart, you know, at the core, which I think, to me is the most important thing, is someone who’s genuine and sweet and kind, and I think he is that even though he’s a bit of a doofus. So you kind of have to forgive that, I think, a little bit.

You mention the fight sequences, which are kind of this craziness. Can you talk about how it translates to this real or somewhat real world to that?

WINSTEAD: It’s, it’s kind of amazing, I mean, it’s sort of something, it’s almost like it’s never really spoken of, it’s something that just happens. Like Scott, you know, is this kind of loser who just hangs out in his apartment and you know, dates the high school girl. And then one day he’s like fighting these completely awesome, insane martial arts experts. It’s like yeah, okay, whatever, back to the good world. It’s not a big deal, and it’s kind of such a fun way to handle it, I think.

Just going by the books, at the end of book five there’s this, there’s a lot about Ramona, we see sort of a very different side of her.

WINSTEAD: Uh huh, yeah.

I’m sort of curious how you can lace that through the performance you created, showing more vulnerability while also being sort of a tough, mysterious girl.

WINSTEAD: Yeah. I’ve always thought Ramona was somewhat of a sad character. Like I feel like she’s been through a lot, like even with her ex-boyfriend and even all the fights, it’s kind of sad. Like she’s always the one who, they’re all fighting over her but she’s like what’s the big deal, like I don’t even get what you’re fighting for, you know? I’m not that amazing. So like I kind of feel like I’ve had to bring sort of a sense of vulnerability and sadness beneath her toughness, from, you know, everything she’s been through.

I get the impression that Edgar’s very specific and very meticulous in as far as what he wants.

WINSTEAD: Yes.

Does that mean he does things like [something takes of everything] and how does that compare…as far as working with a director with such a specific vision and stuff?

WINSTEAD: Right. Um, I think these are such different films that it’s hard to compare, because with Quentin we were all just like, it was like a party every day, you know, it was like that film was just like silly, it was just really for fun, it was really, it wasn’t, you know, to make a huge impact. I t was just we wanted to have fun and go to work every day and do a fun movie. And this is like huge, I mean, this is like huge studio film, there’s a ton of action, it’s like really hard work. So, they have the same vibe of like that fun kind of spirit, but this one’s a lot more serious. It’s like, get it done, get it done right, you know? It’s got to be perfect. We definitely do lots of takes on this. Edgar’s super visual so very technical, I mean, everything’s got to be, like the hand’s got to be in the right placement and the head’s got to move at the right time because it’s got to sort of look, you know, such a specific visual look to it, which is um, the stuff that I’ve seen is just like ridiculous, it looks so awesome, so I’m happy to oblige.

How hard is it to sort of stay in character and be in the moment and also be aware that you know, the hand’s got to be right. How do you balance that?

WINSTEAD: Yeah, it is hard I think. Um, yeah, it’s one of the things that you kind of have to accept at the very beginning, like I’m not going to try and be super [deep?] factor and no, I can only do it this way, because that’s just not how this film’s going to work. Like it’s got to be sort of a mesh of reality and complete unreality and you kind of have to accept that and go with it.

The video blog shows a little bit about the set and I know they’re picking up different pop culture references and—so is there anything in particular that you really love…

WINSTEAD: I feel like it’s so, sort of representative of a generation. I mean everything that they talk about in the books are things that I get. Even like a lot of the Canadian references because I’ve worked in Canada a lot, so I totally know Sloan and I know, you know, all this stuff, and meeting Chris Murphy was really cool, and yeah, everything, it’s like so great to be in Toronto and to see everything that’s in the books and everything they reference and to be able to hang out in those places and go to those bookstores and those comic book stores and those music stores, and like have that, from the books onto the screen, is so cool and I’m glad to have been part of that.

Can you talk about working with Michael? Because without Scott and Ramona’s relationship there’s nothing left to the movie.

WINSTEAD: Yeah. He’s awesome. He’s like the coolest guy ever. I feel so lucky to be able to work with him because he’s so sweet and such a just hard working actor and so willing to do whatever it takes to, you know, make this film as good as it can be. And he’s just a really genuine, funny, sweet guy. And I don’t think there’s many people like him in this business, so I think he’s really one of a kind.

Aside from Michael, I mean because of the structure of the film there’s people who come into the movie and leave the movie. You have this remarkable supporting cast that shows up for bits.

WINSTEAD: Yeah.

How’s that been, like with new people coming in and going out?

WINSTEAD: It’s been really great, it really makes it feel like a new film every couple of weeks. Like it’s awesome, it brings a new energy, a new vibe, a new like—it’s kind of new life into the crew, into the set and everybody. It’s been really great. Like um right now we feel like we’re doing a pyramid movie. We call it. So this month we’re doing the pyramid movie and we’re doing the Chris Evans movie before that, and Brandon Routh movie.

Has there been anyone who’s come in and you just can’t believe what you see in them?

WINSTEAD: Definitely. I think just about everyone is doing something that’s completely different from what you’ve seen them do before or a stretch in some way. Like Brandon Routh is so funny, he’s awesome. And Chris Evans is hilarious. I mean, he’s always funny but just in this character, it’s like, I mean I could barely stop laughing on a single take, it was unbelievable. So I think everybody’s going to be really, really happy with all the [exes?].

What was it like wielding a giant hammer?

WINSTEAD: It was kind of tough. I pulled out my shoulder several times, I got tendonitis. Um, but it was fun, I mean I definitely felt tough and crazy, swinging it like a hammer, swinging it like a bat, I mean, quite often. Which was, break stuff, break a lot of stuff, which was cool. But yeah, it was nice, I like being a bad ass every now and then.

What about the sets?

WINSTEAD: The sets are incredible. I don’t know how they do it, they go up so fast. I mean, it goes from being wooden planks to the next day it’s this glorious, unbelievable thing. I love seeing the apartments, just because of the attention to detail. Ramona’s apartment and Knives’ bedroom and Wallace’s apartment. It’s just like every little thing they pay attention to. There’s things that the audience will never see that are so great. Like the note, I think that was on the blog, like the notes that were in Knives’ bedroom, we were going through and reading all the notes. It was hilarious. Like all the notes that she writes to her friends and, and they’re so right on, they’re so perfect and real and it just amazes me that they go to those lengths, it’s really awesome.

Back on the pop culture thing. I’m actually local. And the books are not just specific to a generation but they’re really specific to late 90s Toronto pop culture.

WINSTEAD: Right.

Is there a lot of CG involved, a lot that’s going to be added later that you’re not going to be seeing on set?

WINSTEAD: Um, we’re definitely doing a lot of blue screen stuff, but not a ton. I mean I feel like a lot, everything that we’re doing for the most part already looks awesome. Like I feel like we’re ready to be, we’re editing it as we go along and we’re watching it and it’s already looking so amazing, that I can’t really imagine what else they’re going to do to it, but I’m sure they’re going to, you know, do whatever it takes to make it look even cooler.

Are you officially awesome on roller blades now?

WINSTEAD: I am manageable. I, you know, it’ll suffice I think. No, no, I feel pretty good. I trained for a long time and I got really cool, like I was doing jumps. It got like, I felt really good, but then when I got out on gravel and fake snow and—it just kind of all went downhill. But I think it’s still okay.

With the endings possibly being different between the film and the books, does that mean that there’s more room for you guys to play around in the movie to make things different on your own? Or is it the kind of thing where you say what is she thinking, let me turn to the book now and look. How do you sort of do that?

WINSTEAD: I think we look to the books a lot, especially for visual, the visual aspects. Like before a scene, we’ll all go look at the books and say okay, so this is the position that we’re in, and as far as that goes. But I think for me, all the things that Bryan gave me about Ramona that aren’t in the books, were like the most helpful as far as who she is and everything like that because she is so mysterious. When you read the books you’re kind of like who the hell is this girl, where does she come from and what’s she all about? So that was really helpful.

Is there room for you guys to improv and play around or is this so technical–?

WINSTEAD: Yeah, I mean I think, occasionally like Michael and Jason will come up, they’ll have an idea and they’ll come to Edgar and say let’s add this line in and it’ll be really funny and great and you know, work. But for the most part, people stay true to the books and the dialogue and the ending, you know, that’s just kind of one chunk of the film and the rest of it, we’re sticking to the book.

Are you shooting multiple endings or–?

WINSTEAD: Just one for now.


You were talking about consulting with Bryan about stuff that isn’t in the book. Can you talk a bit more about that?

WINSTEAD: Um, you know, I don’t know that I want to give away like details of what he told me, because I think it was pretty, kind of a private thing. Um, but yeah, I mean it kind of gives a sense of the darker path that she has, and why she may be as guarded as she is, so he kind of gave me some sort of sad, sort of dark secrets to kind of hold onto for Ramona.

How present has Bryan been on set?

WINSTEAD: He’s been kind of in and out. He comes in for visits, but he’s usually pretty, you know, he’s a quiet presence. He doesn’t kind of come in and make himself known to everybody that he’s there. He just kind of comes and watches and hangs out. I think the first time he came, he was a bit overwhelmed, just seeing everything come to life like this. I don’t really think he knew what to think. Um, but I think he’s happy, which is good.

So who’s your favorite evil ex?

WINSTEAD: Oh.

And have they kept the females?

WINSTEAD: Oh yes, May, May is fantastic. She was great. Um, they’re all so [can’t hear]. They’re all so funny and such fun personalities and  so fun to watch. Jason has been amazing to have on set. I’ve always been a huge fan of his, so I was kind of—we started training together in LA, like Jason and me and Michael and May and it was like, it was so cool. Like all the people I’m just huge fans of were just, were all in the same room. Just incredible.

What does it say about Ramona that so many of her exes are evil?

WINSTEAD: I don’t know.

I have a couple of evil exes, but I also have a couple of okay ones as well.

WINSTEAD: I know. But it seems like they weren’t necessarily evil when she was dating them, but I think in her, the way that she leaves them, obviously affects them negatively. Uh, she turns them. Yeah, I think in retrospect she may have been a bit cold-hearted to some of them, and you know, maybe might think differently in the future of how she treats them.

Fore more SCOTT PILGRIM Coverage:

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD Set Visit

Edgar Wright, Michael Cera, and Jason Schwartzman On Set Interview SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD

Johnny Simmons On Set Interview SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD


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