THE THING's Mary Elizabeth Winstead On How To Play An Action Heroine

Mary Elizabeth Winstead action heroine in THE THING

Mary Elizabeth Winstead leads the fight against an alien invader in THE THING, but she preferred not to play the character too tough or copy another action heroine who's battled Aliens (Sigourney Weaver).

As Kate Lloyd, a paleontologist recruited to unearth a strange creature in the Antartic, Mary Elizabeth uses a flame-thrower and her smarts to battle the predator in THE THING. Wielding a flame-thrower in THE THING certainly brought on the comparison to Sigourney Weaver's Ripley from the Alien movies early on in pre-production.  Her THING co-star Eric Christianson Olson ("NCIS: Los Angeles") called her out as "our Ripley" during our sit down with THE THING cast and director at Universal Studios Hollywood.  While Mary "loves" the comparison to one of her favorites actresses in the genre, THE THING star didn't want to "copy" her in anyway in the prequel to John Carpenter's THE THING.  She took the compliments and "moved on," she told CineMovie.

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Mary Elizabeth Winstead in THE THING

First-time film director Matthijs Van Heijningen originally intended THE THING lead to be male, but the shadow of Kurt Russell's MacReady loomed over the character during the writing phase. He later changed the character to a female once he recalled another famous movie that switched up the genders. 

"We can't beat MacReady somehow. It always became too close to him. So we thought we have to stay away from him completely. And looking at Alien at that point -- 'what about a female?' And she's basically the brains of the story and she has to figure this out."

The commercial director turned filmmaker also said he wanted the heroine to survive not physically, but mentally. He also requested Winstead not be in make-up during the shoot in order to maintain the realness of the character. Winstead enjoyed not having to sit in the make-up chair for hours, except for the days when THE THING director thought she looked too good au naturel.  She was sent off to the make-up trailer for a worn out look.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Matthijs Van Heijningenon set of THE THING

As a "counterpoint," he did pay homage to McCready by writing the Braxton Carter character, played by Joel Edgerton (Warrior), as a helicopter pilot.
Joel Edgerton in THE THING
Mary Elizabeth Winstead approached the character with the director's vision. Her first goal was to play Kate Lloyd as a "relatable woman trying to be strong" and stayed away from the usual stereotypes seen in movies.  She avoided portraying the female scientist as "too tough," or a tomboy, or as a "bad-ass."

"It was a lot of fun to play a character as a woman that's that smart and that strong, and kind of put together...that's not neurotic or shril or like sexy... whatever the things we are in movies."

Winstead certainly delivers as a capable action heroine in her own right, but the comparison to Ripley can't be helped since there are very few female role models to be proud of in Hollywood. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, luckily, can be added to that list.   

THE THING is in movie theaters October 14, 2011.

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