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Actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead gets tough for ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’

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Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as the girl of Scott Pilgrim's dreams, Ramona Flowers.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead stars as the girl of Scott Pilgrim’s dreams, Ramona Flowers.


"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" may look like it was fun to make, but it was a physically grueling and exhausting experience for its cast and crew.

For example, actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead endured a weeks-long "boot camp" just to prepare for her role in the film, a romantic comedy/fantasy based on the best-selling series of graphic novels.

"I got beaten up on a pretty regular basis," the 25-year-old actress said with a laugh. Winstead is in about as much of the film's action as its star, Michael Cera.

In the film, she plays Ramona Flowers, the would-be love interest of Cera's Scott Pilgrim. (He must battle with Ramona's seven "evil exes" to win her heart.)

To prepare for her role, she had to endure martial-arts and other intensive action training. That was followed by the actual movie shoot.

"This was one of the longest productions I've been involved in, and it was definitely one of the most intense ones," she reported. "By the end of each day, we were completely exhausted. By the time we started shooting, we were relieved. Even if it was to a lesser degree."

Of course, Winstead added, making the movie "was a lot of fun."

"I got to swing a massive war hammer and got to punch another girl in the face. That was incredibly rewarding," she said with a laugh.

She said that, going into the film, she hadn't read the source material — a series of six graphic novels written and drawn by Toronto artist Bryan Lee O'Malley.

What really piqued her interest was the opportunity to work with director Edgar Wright, who has gained a cult following for his genre-bending films "Shaun of the Dead" (2004) and "Hot Fuzz" (2007).

"Actors are practically lining up to work with Edgar," Winstead explained. "I really don't know anyone working in Hollywood right now who isn't a fan of his. He's just an incredibly creative, energetic man."

However, she did read O'Malley's works after she landed her role and now counts herself as one of his fans as well. "I really like how smart and funny it is. It appears to be simple story, but there's much more to it."

The Scott Pilgrim books reference video games, comic books and indie music, but treat them all in a light-hearted manner. They're also cartoony, which made it surprising when Wright decided to make his film live-action rather than animated.

"I think that even fans will be pleased with what Edgar did with the material," Winstead said. "There's so much of the comics in the movie. It's as close as you can get to translating it directly without simply making a page-for-page adaptation."

She also said that Cera will surprise a lot of people with his performance. "He gets to be as much of an action star as a romantic lead."

So did Winstead, who said the entire experience was "totally worth it. I'd do this all again in a heartbeat."

And besides, the premovie training served her well. Since wrapping on "Scott Pilgrim," she's taken on a role in "The Thing," a science-fiction/horror film that's a "prequel" to the 1982 hit that starred Kurt Russell.

"I'd already gone through so much with the last film that I pretty much hit the ground running," she said. "I was way ahead of everyone else for a change."

Winstead said she's excited about her role in "The Thing," which she likened to the one Sigourney Weaver played in the "Alien" movie franchise.

"Women in film, including myself, owe a lot to (Weaver). She's been a strong role model for all of us because she kicked so much (tail)."

Though she was born in North Carolina, Winstead also claims Utah roots.

She spent most of her preteen and teenage years in the Beehive State, and she still has family here.

"Utah is like a second home to me. I really need to get back there soon. I'm going to be an aunt pretty soon," she said excitedly.

e-mail: jeff@desnews.com