Ariel Winter has grown up before our very eyes thanks to her role as Alex Dunphy on ABC's hit sitcom Modern Family, a show she booked when she was just 11 years old. But now, she's ready to show the world that she's more than just a sitcom star, and fans should get ready for a brand new Ariel Winter in The Last Movie Star, on DIRECTV now and in theaters Mar. 30.
In The Last Movie Star, the actor plays Lil, a tattooed wild child who wears a uniform of booty shorts and crop tops and picks up a temp job working as a 24-hour chauffeur for the past-his-prime movie star Vic Edwards (Burt Reynolds) in Nashville. In other words, the role is the opposite of Winter's goody-two-shoes television alter ego. In the exclusive clip from The Last Movie Star below, Lil shows up late to pic Vic up from the airport, and it's safe to say she doesn't make the best impression on the older star. Over the course of the film, though, Lil and Vic get to know each other better and form an unlikely friendship — hopefully one that no longer requires Vic hitting Lil in the leg with his cane to get her attention.
The movie, previously titled Dog Years, marks Winter's first live action film in almost three years, and it's certainly a departure from her sweet Modern Family on screen persona. "I've been playing Alex for eight years, and I love her, but I've been wanting to transition into more adult roles because I'm an adult now," the actor said in an interview with Maxim. "I wanted to show that I have a broad skill set."
That said, it was actually Winter's prior experience on Modern Family that The Last Movie Star writer-director Adam Rifkin said made her perfect for the role. "We needed somebody who was young enough to be believable in the role, but with enough experience to match wits with Burt," Rifkin said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. "Ariel Winter fit the bill perfectly... She and Burt were great at throwing barbs at each other and giving each other sh*t."
Fans who only know Winter from Modern Family might be surprised when they see her new look in The Last Movie Star, but fans of Winter's social media presence, specifically her Instagram, will recognize the wild and daring Lil, with her dark red hair and septum piercing, as actually pretty close to Winter's own personality, at least when it comes to fashion. In the movie, Lil doesn't let the expectations of those around her dictate her style, which is something Winter can relate to.
"I love that about her. Because that's always been me," she told Bustle in April of 2017. "I wear what I want, I say what I want, I do what I want. And that's always been very important to me. I feel like more people should be that way — unapologetically themselves."
But make no mistake, Lil's wardrobe wasn't the thing that attracted Winter to the role. One thing the actor is most proud of when it comes to The Last Movie Star is how the film explores mental illness. "Lil is in an abusive relationship that she finally gets out of, and thorugh her, the movie also puts a spotlight on mental illness," she told Maxim. "that's something that's been really important for me." She added that her own personal experience with mental illness informed her performance.
Of course, just like Alex Dunphy isn't an exact representation of Winter, neither is Lil. But if there's one insight into Winter The Last Movie Star gives, it's that she's not afraid to mix things up even if it might upset longtime fans who want her to stay Alex Dunphy forever.