Mary Elizabeth Winstead (born November 28, 1984) is an American actress. Winstead is known for her scream queen roles in the horror films Final Destination 3, Death Proof, The Thing, and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but has also branched out to other genres, including as John McClane's daughter Lucy in Live Free or Die Hard & A Good Day to Die Hard, Ramona Flowers in the comic-to-film adaptation of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and as the alcoholic wife who struggles through sobriety in the Sundance-selected film Smashed.
Winstead, the youngest of five children of Betty Lou (née Knight) and James Ronald Winstead, was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Winstead has stated that her maternal grandfather was a cousin of actress Ava Gardner. Winstead was only five years old when her family moved to Sandy, Utah, a Salt Lake City suburb. As a girl, Winstead attended Peruvian Park Elementary, where she excelled academically and attended advanced classes. A talented dancer and singer, Winstead studied dance in a Joffrey Ballet summer program in Chicago, Illinois and was also a member of the International Children's Choir. During her youth, Winstead initially hoped to pursue a career as a ballerina and appeared in local ballet productions. As she entered her teens Winstead was forced to quit ballet due to her height. She later 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". Realizing that her career as a ballerina was unlikely, Winstead turned to acting instead.
After leaving ballet to pursue an acting career, Winstead first appeared on Broadway during Donny Osmond's successful run of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. After her brief stint in Broadway, Winstead began making appearances in various television series and earned guest roles in Touched by an Angel and Promised Land.
She gained her first major role when she was cast as Jessica Bennett in the NBC soap opera series Passions. Winstead was a series regular and held the role from 1999 to 2000 before leaving to pursue other interests. Winstead later stated, "I really had one of the smallest roles on Passions, so I didn't get too involved...
I was able to leave pretty easily". After leaving Passions, Winstead's next significant television role was in the short-lived CBS drama series Wolf Lake (2001-2002), where she portrayed the daughter of Tim Matheson's character. The series lasted ten episodes before being cancelled.
In 2004 Winstead played a supporting role in MTV's made-for-television film Monster Island. In 2005 Winstead played a minor role in the indie comedy Checking Out. Winstead gained a much larger role later that year as the main antagonist of the Walt Disney Pictures film Sky High. The film, also starring Kurt Russell, Kelly Preston, Michael Angarano and Danielle Panabaker, was well-received by critics, holding a 73% on Rotten Tomatoes, and fared well at the box office