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Things You Didn't Know About Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Updated August 6, 2019 59.8k views11 items

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is an incredible actress who's managed to deliver nuanced, powerhouse performances in Oscar-worthy and blockbuster films alike. As one of the best up-and-comers in the industry, it's likely there's a lot about her that remains a total mystery to casual movie fans. Not only was she almost picked to be the Harley Quinn actress in Suicide Squad, she's also become something of a "scream queen" over the years, so odds are good you've seen her pop up in one of your favorite 2010s horror flicks.

Whether she's an actress you admire and are familiar with or you're just learning about her amazing body of work, there's a ton of riveting information to learn about Mary Elizabeth Winstead. 

  • Her Big Break Came On An NBC Soap Opera

    Photo: Passions / NBC

    Winstead's first major role was a recurring part on the soap opera Passions in 1999. She played Jessica Bennett for 89 episodes, but quit the series the following year. Her character was subsequently played by two other actresses, Jade Harlow, and Danica Stewart, so her departure didn't cause the production too much trouble.

    She was the first person on the show to quit, but it was the best move for her career. In an interview with Glamour, she talked a bit about her withdrawal from the program, stating, "Yeah, I quit. I know, right? I was the first person on that show to quit! It was after a year, and I thought, This isn’t really what I thought acting was about. I wanted the opportunity to try and explore something else."

  • 'Smashed' Changed The Way She Thought About Acting

    Photo: Smashed / Sony Pictures Classics

    In an interview with Glamour, Winstead talked about the specific roles she felt shaped her as an actress. She said her time working on the indie film Smashed, "totally changed the way I saw myself as an actor and types of roles that I wanted to play. It really just set me in a clear direction in terms of what I wanted to do."

    Her work on the film helped her see she had the "complexity and the capacity" to work in roles she always wanted to explore. This gave her the confidence she needed to explore more difficult roles she might have shied away from in the past. 

  • Her Original Career Choice: Ballerina

    Photo: Make It Happen / The Weinstein Company

    When she was still a little girl, Winstead took to dancing as a possible career choice. Like many young girls looking to break into the industry, dance seemed like a natural choice, and Winstead was particularly good at it.

    Unfortunately, a growth spurt cut her ballerina career short after she became a teenager.  In an interview with Radio Free Entertainment, she stated, "I realized pretty early on that I was already too tall by the time I was 13... You know, your body has to stay that way for your entire life, and it's pretty hard on your muscles and your bones"

    When professional dancing became impractical as a career choice, she turned to acting. 

  • She Married (And Later Divorced) Her Longtime Sweetheart


    A post shared by Riley Stearns (@rileystearns) on


    Winstead married her longtime partner, Riley Stearns, in 2010 after meeting him at age 18 while on a Carnival Cruise. Sadly, the couple called it quits and separated in May, 2017. In a now-deleted post on Instagram, Winstead described her love for Riley, but noted their marriage was over:

    Sitting here with my best friend who I love with all my heart. We have spent our lives together and it has been full of joy and warmth every day. We’ve decided to move on from our marriage, but we will stay best friends and collaborators for all our days. We are still ride or die, just in a different way now. I love you always, Riley.

    The couple had known one another for 15 years when they decided to call it quits, but their reason for divorcing is all speculation and conjecture. The current theory online is their marriage came to an end due to Ewan McGregor, but similar to the speculation of his divorce coming about becasue of Winstead, the truth remains known only to those involved.