10 Cloverfield Lane Star Mary Elizabeth Winstead Did Not Know She Was Making A Cloverfield Movie

Once upon a time, it seemed as if "Cloverfield" movies were about to become all the rage. Think about it: How great is the idea of a loose anthology of horror/thrillers that, yes, share tons of tiny blink-and-miss-it Easter eggs connecting one film to the previous one, but mostly only maintain a sense of "continuity" through their shared tone and intention? Yeah, that's the good stuff. The original Matt Reeves-directed monster movie "Cloverfield" felt like a solid enough proof-of-concept display of this ambition, though Dan Trachtenberg's "10 Cloverfield Lane" took that general template and dramatically raised the bar with its story of three individuals trapped together in a post-apocalyptic bunker as the world may or may not have ended outside. Only the exceedingly poor reception to "The Cloverfield Paradox" seemed to put a stop to this budding series of low-budget (yet high-reward) movies, but "10 Cloverfield Lane" still stands tall as the franchise highlight five years later.

We're not done singing the praises of that movie, and thankfully star Mary Elizabeth Winstead isn't done talking about it either. The process of taking an original script (in this case, the project was initially titled "The Cellar" and then "Valencia") and retrofitting it into the "Cloverfield" brand name was always a secretive one, which apparently applies to the cast every bit as much as it does to us viewers. Winstead is now looking back and reminiscing about her perspective of just how late in the game it was when she finally grasped the full intentions for "10 Cloverfield Lane."

Kept in the Dark

For the vast majority of "10 Cloverfield Lane," the story functions as a highly effective claustrophobic thriller, with Trachtenberg's creative use of space, the tightly-wound script, and the strength of the very small cast doing much of the heavy lifting. It isn't until the final act when (spoiler alert!) we finally get a glimpse of the outside world and realize that John Goodman's conspiracy theorist antagonist was actually right to be paranoid about whatever apocalyptic event had apparently took place. The last-minute plot twist inspired some fierce debate at the time (it's Good, Actually!), but it's also precisely what helped bring the film closer in spirit to the original "Cloverfield."

In a conversation with the Collider Ladies Night podcast, Winstead revealed that she was mostly unaware of the "Cloverfield" connections until the film was about to release.

"It was all definitely after the fact because I didn't know it was a Cloverfield movie until just before it came out. I had no idea it was a Cloverfield movie! [Laughs] It was an idea that was floated around but wasn't something that was really, officially like, 'This is part of that universe.' It was its own standalone film and then, just before the movie came out, spoke with JJ and it was like, 'Oh no, this is gonna be part of the Cloverfield franchise.' And I really didn't know what to think of it at first because I hadn't really wrapped my brain around it and then, once everything got laid out and it made sense and the marketing for it came out, I was like, 'Oh, I see how this fits together, this kind of puzzle,' and it's actually really smart."

Personally, I think all the debate over the ending would've been justified if the final threat had been clumsily revealed to be the literal monster from the original (adorably referred to as Clover!), as many suspected might be the case at the time. Thankfully, "10 Cloverfield Lane" steered well clear of that and instead gave audiences a surprising, out-of-nowhere, spiritual sequel to the original hit movie ... even if that meant keeping the actors themselves in the dark for almost as long as us.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead most recently appeared in the action movie "Kate," which is currently streaming on Netflix.