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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

"Smashed" Press Junket

Dian Qi |
October 3, 2012 | 12:02 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

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After starring in her fair share of comedies, horror movies and action movies, rising star Mary Elizabeth Winstead is finally starring in her first leading dramatic role in the new film "Smashed."

At Tuesday's press junket, director and co-writer James Ponsoldt, co-writer Susan Burke, and lead actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead talked to Neon Tommy about the new indie film.

The story, loosely based on Burke's personal experiences with alcoholism and sobriety, was conceived out of a conversation she and Ponsoldt had about drinking.

"We shared stories about stupid things we'd done when we were drunk," Ponsoldt laughs.

"It's not my story though," states Burke adamantly. "There are elements of my experience…but it changed so much when we wrote the script. What we wanted more than anything was to have the feelings of a real story, and the actors made it their own [as well]."

Though the movie deals with serious issues like alcoholism, Ponsoldt and Burke didn't want it to come off as a serious social issues film, and hoped it was something people could actually identify with.

"We really wanted something to add humor and didn't want to take ourselves too seriously," says Ponsoldt. "There's a reason people drink. It's because it's really fun!  Usually in movies people feel like they have to treat [characters] who are struggling with something as fragile, but they're not. People are tough and resilient and complicated. We wanted the film to feel that way and a main character that had all of those things."

Regarding the casting of Winstead, Ponsoldt reveals, "I've been a fan of Mary for a long time. She's this very still, constant, strong presence. She has a very tough role [in Smashed] because she has to be cold, but she also has a sly sense of humor…we wanted someone to be a surrogate for the audience who could find strength and go through a lot."

"It was scary for me to take it on because I'd never done anything like that before," admitted Winstead of taking on her role as an alcoholic. 

When asked how she prepared for her role with co-star Aaron Paul, who plays her husband in the film (also an alcoholic), Winstead dishes on how the two went out and got drunk together. 

"I did it because I wanted to experience what our dynamic would be like [when we were drunk] since we had to be like that a lot in the film," she laughs. 

After acting in blockbuster flicks like "Live Free or Die Hard," "Smash" was a drastic change for Winstead. She knew that the role would be challenging, and had to prepare mentally and emotionally more than she ever had to for any other character. 

"I spent a lot of time in AA meetings," mentioned Winstead. I went to so many in L.A. and there were so many places to do it and see different people from different backgrounds. It was so relatable and that was my first step…and then I had to figure out the problems in my own life."

When asked why she didn't do something like this sooner, Winstead explains, "I don't know if I would've been able to play a role like this five years ago…the years of working and growing as an actor just kind of came at the right moment for me and i was finally confident enough and ready to do it."

Though WInstead's past roles have been starkly different from her role in Smashed, it seems they've set her up over time.

"All I've ever really want to do is be a real human being on the screen," reveals Winstead. "So finally having that opportunity was really exciting."

Smashed will be released in limited theaters October 12.


Reach Staff Reporter Dian Qi here.



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