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Mary Elizabeth Winstead is photographed at the Intercontinental Hotel while doing promotion for her film Smashed during the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2012.Jennifer Roberts/The Globe and Mail

In Smashed , Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Live Free or Die Hard) plays the kind of person you probably know but have rarely seen in a movie: a young, alcoholic woman trying to get sober.

Winstead was knocked sideways when she read Smashed 's script. " She's a completely real character that you just never, ever see in scripts," Winstead, 27, said during an interview during the Toronto International Film Festival in September. "She always has to be perfect, she always has to be making the guy a better person. She's on a pedestal. And here's a woman who's dragging herself through the mud with what she's doing to herself, making terrible choices and yet you still root for her."

Winstead's turn as Kate has everybody talking. But how did she do it? How did a well-adjusted, beautiful, successful Hollywood actress manage to so convincingly portray a middle-class teacher who's a desperately chronic drunk?

"I began going to AA meetings with people in recovery I knew," she explained. "That's when I realized these people are not any different than anyone else I know, they're not really different than me. That was the key to getting the ball rolling on this girl. She's just like me."

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