SKY HIGH - Q&A with STEVEN STRAIT & MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD
The young actors who appear in Disney's new action adventure film, SKY HIGH, could well turn out to be tomorrow's A listers. Two of the most talented up and coming stars are Steven Strait who plays Warren Peace and Mary Elizabeth Winstead who plays Gwen Grayson. Both characters are students at the extraordinary school SKY HIGH for the children of super heroes. Both have exceptional powers: Gwen can control technology, while Warren is a rebel flamethrower. Along with the exciting young ensemble cast, Kelly Preston and Kurt Russell star as the world's leading super heroes.
The young, talented cast of SKY HIGH bring the film to life; injecting fun and vitality into a compelling and original take on the super hero theme. They portray high school life - with all the familiar problems. Warren Peace (Steven Strait) is a brooding and rebellious student with a dark secret. He is a misunderstood loner who is a typical high school outcast. "He is interesting because he has a lot of internal struggles," says Strait. "He transforms during the course of the film, and he is a complex character, which is why he is so fascinating to play." The moody super hero has the power to manipulate fire and Strait infuses the character with a range of emotions. Strait is a charismatic newcomer who brings an unusual intensity to the role.
Winstead also has a complex role in SKY HIGH. She plays the most popular girl in school, a 'techno path' who is beautiful and brilliant. "I am the Queen Bee who rules the school," says the actress, "I control technology with my mind but I also like to control other people. I am definitely into mind control. "The one person she is desperate to control is the central character in the movie, Will Stronghold, (Michael Angarano) who has a crush on her. On the surface, Winstead appears to be the ideal girlfriend, but as the plot unravels, we discover that Gwen is not the person she seems to be.
The film is set in a secret high school in the clouds, in which exceptional kids learn to become the superheroes of tomorrow. The story deals with emotional issues, but is also funny and action packed with plenty of dazzling special effects.
Steven Strait is the lead singer of the rock group TRIBE. Performing since he was 12, he studied theatre at the legendary Stella Adler Acting Studio in New York, where he grew up. In his next film, UNDISCOVERED, he plays an aspiring rock star.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead is an experienced actress, although she is only 20. Born in North Carolina, she started acting when she was ten years old. She has appeared in many TV shows and recently had roles in THE RING TWO and CHECKING OUT. Interestingly, she is a distant cousin of Ava Gardner. Her next project is the film FINAL DESTINATION 3.
Mary, was it intimidating starring opposite Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston?
WINSTEAD: It was definitely intimidating to begin with, because Kurt and Kelly are so famous and experienced. But I had a scene with both of them the first day that I was on the set and I was struck by how funny and down to earth they both were. They were normal people talking about their kids. They are like any parents across America, taking care of their kids. But they happen to be amazing, very successful actors too. It was funny seeing Kurt in his super hero costume, then chatting normally, asking everybody if they want a tuna sandwich.
STRAIT: They were great, very friendly and we spent a lot of time hanging out between scenes. I learned from them by example, they were so focused and as actors they were amazing to watch.
What was the atmosphere like on the set? Watching the film, it looks like you had a lot of fun?
WINSTEAD: It was like a family, everyone got along so well. We laughed constantly and had so much fun, even in front of the camera and I think that is why the movie is so entertaining to watch.
What was it like working with Lynda Carter, who starred as Wonder Woman in the original TV series? and plays the principal of SKY HIGH?
STRAIT: It was amazing. She walks into a room and you immediately know exactly why she is the quintessential female in American pop culture. She has a presence that just radiates on and off screen. Even when you do not see her, you can feel her presence. She is also incredibly nice and supportive.
WINSTEAD: I grew up with Wonder Woman in my family, because my parents were huge fans. My mom used to get told that she looked like Lynda Carter back in the seventies, because she had jet black, long hair and she would even get mistaken for her. So it was so exciting to meet her and bring my parents to meet her. They were thrilled.
Mary, your character is interesting, she has a lot going on beneath the surface.
WINSTEAD: Yes, I play Gwen Grayson and she is the popular girl at Sky High. I didn't go to high school myself; I was home schooled so I couldn't really identify with her. I was not part of any clique. But she is the quintessential girl next door and evolves throughout the movie into something else. There are a lot of complexities in her character which made it so much fun.
She definitely has a mean streak, was that fun for you as an actress?
WINSTEAD: It was so exciting because I have never played a role like this before. I usually play the sweet girl and this was different for me so I welcomed it with open arms.
What inspired your dream of acting; I know you started when you were only ten years old?
WINSTEAD: I acted in theater and I took film classes when I was 12 and just obsessed over it. I loved it and spent hours and hours in the film studio learning and watching. I always knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. That is why I was home schooled. I was always busy, so normal school didn't work out for me.
Steven, can you tell me about your character and why you like this film?
STRAIT: I read the script and thought that it was so clever and so great that someone had taken the superhero genre and twisted it without taking it all too seriously. I think it is an interesting story with different shades and colors. What initially attracted me to Warren was the fact that his character has such an amazing arc and transformation throughout the film. He really comes out of his shell and I found that was fascinating, it was a privilege to play him.
Did you like school, were you rebellious like him?
STRAIT: I did like school, I like academics and I love to read - literature and politics - anything. I do not even own a television. I was not a rebel in school. I was an outsider, but by the end of my time at school, I had a solid group of friends. It was a tough school, a very strict Catholic military academy in New York. It was my choice to go there though, because it was the best education my family could afford.
Which do you prefer - theater or film?
STRAIT: I love both. I think the enjoyment is in the process of creating a character and it is exactly the same whether you're doing it for a film or play. It doesn't make any difference.
Steven, you have done some modeling, did you enjoy it? I hear you were literally 'discovered'.
STRAIT: I was walking back from the acting school where I had studied for a long time in New York. It was in the middle of the summer and I passed a modeling agency. A man rushed out of the building and ran after me and shouted 'come in' and I said 'no, who are you?' Anyway he told me about the agency and to be honest with you I was not that interested in doing modeling at the time. But the guy explained that it was a good way to make extra money and I definitely found it an excellent means to an end to pay for theater school.
Did you dream of fame and stardom?
STRAIT: No I haven't thought about that at all. I love acting and I love music but I am not sure how much I will enjoy fame. I have never experienced it before and in all honesty it seems a bit scary. But I guess I will take it day by day.
You also play music which do you prefer?
STRAIT: I have always found that acting and music link together. The idea of conveying a narrative is similar whether it is in a three-minute song or whether it is in a character over two hours. I approach them in the same way.
What music do you enjoy?
STRAIT: I like everything from hard rock to blues, it really depends on the song.
What superpowers would you both like if you could choose?
STRAIT: I would like Mary's (Gwen's) power over technology because I am technologically ignorant, so my life would become a lot easier. I have to study manuals for three hours to fix my fax machine.
WINSTEAD: I would like to be like Penny, one of the characters in the film who can clone herself and be in 20 places at once. It would be so helpful to be anywhere I wanted at the same time and accomplish whatever I wanted to do in a single day.
Question & Answer Text Copyright Buena Vista International