After cutting her teeth on television, in both daytime and primetime soaps -- as a good girl amid witches and demons and hell portals on NBC's Passions; a troubled teen on CBS's short-lived Wolf Lake -- Mary Elizabeth Winstead jumped into films and almost right away began making a reputation for herself as a fresh face in genre movies. And if you're looking to build a solid base for a mainstream career, building loyalty among fanboy culture with Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright, and John McClane is a good start. Now that she's getting lead roles and Independent Spirit Award nominations and such, maybe it's time to get to know where we know her from.

Working Actor: Mary Elizabeth Winstead

You've Most Likely Seen Her In...

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Fanboys the world over fell head over heels for Winstead as fuchsia-haired dream-girl Ramona Flowers. Fans of the hyper-effortful winking odes to slack that are the Scott Pilgrim graphic novels ate up every disaffected gesture she was putting down. The movie didn't exactly rip it up at the box office, but it reached the right people, i.e. the ruling class of comic-book guys whose taste guides mainstream Hollywood these days.

Unless You've Really Been Paying Attention, in Which Case You Remember Her From ...

It may be the one Quentin Tarantino movie even he won't stand behind, but Death Proof  was a great platform for Winstead. As part of a foursome with Rosario Dawson, Tracie Thoms, and Zoe Bell, she got to bite into equal shares Tarantino dialogue and Tarantino action.

"Wait, So She's That Girl From..."

...A whole bunch of throwaway horror remakes and/or sequels that are perfectly acceptable Friday-night DVD entertainment. Final Destination 3  is a Final Destination movie, which makes it wonderful. Black Christmas and The Thing were both pale imitations of their more thrilling originals, but they remained sufficiently dark enough to not be embarrassing. The good news for Winstead was that she emerged from both of those remakes remarkably unscathed. That's the good thing about not being a big enough name to take the fall for failure.

You Can Also Go Back and Spot Her In ...

Winstead was an antagonist in the well-reviewed but little seen teen-superhero movie Sky High. She was cast as Bruce Willis's daughter in Live Free or Die Hard, (and as mentioned before, can be seen briefly in last weekend's big release, A Good Day to Die Hard). She was one face in a sea of thousands in Emilio Estevez's problematic historical drama, Bobby.

She's Super Hot Right Now Because Of...

...Smashed. Winstead got crazy-good reviews for her performance as one half of a marriage of alcoholics. She and Aaron Paul as the couple are by far the best part of the movie, and Winstead pulled down an Independent Spirit Award nomination for her trouble. It's an important career milestone in its own right, but even more important because it gives Winstead a foothold in the world of non-genre dramas. Perhaps casting directors will start looking at her with more varied possibilities in mind.

Of course, she was also seen by millions more people as Mary Todd Lincoln in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, so maybe genre films are just going to be her thing.

Get Onboard Early For ...

After the success of Smashed, Winstead was back at Sundance this year, albeit in supporting roles, in the Adam Scott comedy A.C.O.D. and the Miles Teller/Shailene Woodley teen romance The Spectacular Now. So expect even more from M.E.W. in 2013.

 

More from Tribeca:

Working Actor: Radha Mitchell 

Working Actor: Where You've Seen Josh Hamilton Before