Earlier this month, Thompson on Hollywood’s Sophia Savage sat down with “True Grit” star Hailee Steinfeld to talk about the newcomer’s rising career and experiences making the latest Coen brothers film.
The young actress shared insights on her background in acting and the preparation she undertook for her breakthrough role, that recently netted her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress in this year’s Oscar race. Steinfeld also went into what it was like working with the Coens and her thoughts on what her future might hold.
Click here to watch the full video interview. Below are snippets from the chat.
How long has acting been something you wanted to do?
When I was eight my cousin was doing commercials at the time and a close family friend of mine was doing a school play. When I knew I wanted to do that, I went to my mom and asked her if I could start acting. She made me study for a full year before we took it any step further. It’s been around six years now.
Did you grow up around a lot of people who were in the industry? Were you exposed to it in any way?
Not other than my cousin, no. Not at all actually; my mom is an interior designer and my dad is a personal fitness trainer.
Did you grow up playing a lot of sports?
I did. I danced, I still do, but I used to do every kind of dance. I played a lot of sports. I’m very athletic.
Did that help in preparing for a role that was very physical?
Yeah, it definitely came in hand. One of the things that I tried before acting came along was horseback riding, so that was a lot of fun for me. At the end of the day that was the highlight of the day, to ride the horses. One of my best friends has three horses and it’s so amazing to see, you just fall in love with them, they’re like people. I spent three and a half months with the horses and it was lovely.
It looked like a really fun movie to be a part of and you probably learned a lot from your co-stars…
I did. I think I learned more by watching them. It wasn’t too much that they personally taught me something. [I learned more] just by spending as much time as I could with them, by observing them.
Do you think you could differentiate between your co-stars and how they function? Like, is Matt Damon different from Jeff Bridges?
Yeah, definitely. They have their similarities and their differences. I can’t think of anything too different. They are both very professional and such a joy to be around on and off set. They have so much fun with what they do. The best advice that both of them have given me is to not take anything too seriously, and they’ve given me the perfect example of that. The fact that they come to work to do a job and then go back home to their family is a big lesson in itself. Honestly, I don’t think I can think of something that’s too big of a difference.
Do you know what kind of thing you would like to do next?
I guess I really haven’t thought about it too much yet. I’ve realized that before “True Grit” came along random people would ask “Who do you want to work with?” and I never really knew who to name. Now that I’ve worked with some of the most amazing people in the business, I realize how fortunate I am and my answer now is if I were ever to get the opportunity to work with them again it would be amazing.
Are there any directors whose work you really admire?
I feel like every day I discover new filmmakers but I think that now I can appreciate what a director does and what it takes to make an amazing film. I’d love to work with the Coen brothers again, Christopher Nolan is someone who I’d love to work with. There are so many…
Working with the Coen brothers, does one of them do more in one aspect of the direction than the other? Or how do they share the responsibility?
It’s split up pretty equally, I have to say. It’s kind of cool…there are two of them but it’s almost as if they are one person and they have the same mind. It’s hard to explain, but they are always finishing each others’ sentences and it’s like they have their own language between the two of them. But I have to say, they split everything up very equally -they don’t go on without agreeing with each other.
Do you have a favorite Coen brothers movie?
Besides “True Grit”? Probably “Raising Arizona.”
How many times have you seen “True Grit”?
I’ve seen it four times? Five times?
Do you get sick of watching it?
I find different things every time I watch it, so it’s fun. The thing I love about it the most is when I first saw it I didn’t exactly know how I was supposed to watch it -whether as myself or a character…I didn’t really have any idea how to see it. Now that I’ve seen it a few times I’m able to watch it as just a regular movie, as a story, and overall the story itself — it’s really a great movie. It’s always fun to see it.
So I read that you’ve been home-schooled for the past couple of years. What’s that like? Do you like it?
Well it’s all online, so it follows me everywhere. It’s definitely been very flexible with what I’ve been doing.
Do you think you will keep doing it or will you go back to school?
I think we are waiting to see what’s next. Whether I’ll go to high school or I might be on set somewhere with a tutor.
What about college?
I was actually just with a friend and we were randomly talking about that and…I don’t know. I guess I haven’t though too much about it but I’m definitely going, I can say that.
What acting school did you go to when you first became interested in acting?
Cynthia Bain’s Young Actors Studio in Studio City. I studied there for a year. From that point until now I’ve worked with a lot of different coaches. I’ve worked with coaches on private sessions and I’ve gone to coaches that do big classes with a bunch of kids from a big age range, so I’ve been able to experience a lot.
What type of acting techniques stood out for you?
I guess a technique overall is not something I really think about. Like, I don’t really have a specific technique that I work with.
Do you have a process?
When I get a script?
Yeah, when you get a script or when you know you’re shooting a certain scene in a day. Before you shoot the scene do you make your head go to a certain space or how do you warm up?
Depending on what it is I might listen to a song that puts me in the mood of whatever is going on or I watch something, little stuff like that. Overall, if I get a script, I feel it takes me a long time to read it because I go over it and try to picture it all.
If there was an actress you could single out who in fifteen years you would like to have a similar career, who do you think you’d pick?
I have to say the first few who come to mind are Jodie Foster and Natalie Portman. Also Diane Lane, who is one of my favorite actresses. The fact that they’ve maintained such an amazing career since they were young is really my goal.
Previous 2011 Oscar Nominee Profiles:
“Blue Valentine” Actress Michelle Williams
“Incendies” Director Denis Villeneuve
“The Social Network” Composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross