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Hailee Steinfeld: 'Being a film star doesn't affect me or my family - I still live at home with my parents'

She may have the backing of Hollywood's elite, but Hailee Steinfeld isn't likely to let it go to her head. She tells Gemma Dunn that, like every other teen, she's simply trying to navigate her way in the world.

Published 30/11/2016

Teenage kicks: Hailee Steinfeld
Teenage kicks: Hailee Steinfeld
Natural beauty: Hailee Steinfeld on the red carpet
Girl power: Hailee Steinfeld and Haley Lu Richardson in The Edge of Seventeen
Hailee Steinfeld with Jeff Bridges in True Grit
Taylor’s squad: Hailee Steinfeld (second left) with (from left) actress Zendaya, Taylor Swift and models Lily Aldridge and Martha Hunt

Hailee Steinfeld has the life most teenage girls could only dream of. Instead of cinema trips with friends, she's traipsing red carpets and promoting her own films, and rather than simply dancing to Taylor Swift's album in her bedroom, she's a bona fide member of Swifty's exclusive squad.

At just 19, the starlet is - by all accounts - Hollywood's darling, but there's no sign of diva-like behaviour.

Sporting an embellished dress adorned with a big velvet bow at the collar and crisp white shirt for her day of interviews, Steinfeld's in good spirits, giggling as she wraps a blanket around her legs.

All cascading glossy hair, glowing skin and pop pink lips, she has all of the credentials of an up-and-coming movie star - but a new-found-fame brat she is not, instead speaking with a composure far beyond her years.

So what's her trick? How has the girl who was put up for an Academy Award at the age of 14 (Steinfeld was nominated for her precocious portrayal of Mattie Ross in the Coen Brothers' 2010 adaptation of True Grit) got it so right, in comparison to her unruly counterparts?

"Luckily I had the best people around me that made me," she states, clapping her palms together. "So many people took me by the hand and showed me the way entirely. My mum and dad have a lot to do with it; I owe it to them."

Of the pressure that comes from growing up in the spotlight, she says: "I guess there's a sense that people are watching, [but] I have never felt that what I do has affected me personally in that way.

"I still live at home with my parents, my personal life, my family - everything's the same. The only thing that's changed is my schedule and how much busier I've gotten.

"But I get to do what I love, and I'm supported by the people I love."

Born in LA, Steinfeld appeared in her first TV commercial at eight years old. Further TV jobs followed, but True Grit was the springboard she needed to make a lasting impression on Tinseltown.

Since that breakout role, she's appeared in various films, including sci-fi action epic Ender's Game; Carlo Carlei's 2013 adaptation of Romeo & Juliet; Begin Again alongside Keira Knightley, and Pitch Perfect 2 - for which she'll reprise her role in the franchise's third chapter, due next year.

Those recent movies also enabled her to reveal her impressive singing voice; she's gone on to release three singles - the latest of which is catchy pop tune, Starving.

"It's been incredible to do both [film and music]," Steinfeld enthuses, beaming at the mere mention of her exhausting agenda. "But whenever I am doing one, I'm completely focused on that."

For now, her attention is on her latest venture: coming-of-age comedy, The Edge Of Seventeen.

Steinfeld plays lead Nadine, whose world is rocked when her best friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) begins dating her older, cooler brother - leaving her perplexed and having to navigate high school alone.

The angst teen is forced to see the people in her life - including her distracted mother (Kyra Sedgwick) and unlikely mentor and history teacher Mr Bruner (Woody Harrelson) - with fresh eyes, as she discovers life is more complicated than she first thought.

So what appealed to her about the film?

"The story of a teenager today feeling real and honest," she says. "I hope my viewers feel the same way, that they can identify with a character like this and feel like they're not alone.

"This felt like a film our generation could call their own."

She says she can relate to Nadine's awkwardness.

"I definitely have moments when I'm like, 'What's wrong with you? Just be normal'. Not having that traditional high school experience didn't remove me in any way from her or her story.

"We're all teenagers at one point," she elaborates, confessing to feeling empowered by ditching the make-up in favour of her own blemished skin for filming.

"We're all struggling to find the answers to certain questions - and that's what this character is doing, and that's what I'm doing."

She admits working with True Detective star Harrleson kept her on her toes - "He kept me thinking and working and striving to be better as a person and as an actor" - but he's not the first A-lister to inspire her.

"Being in the presence of so many incredible people, I've learnt so much," she observes. "Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and everyone on True Grit told me to have fun and not take life too seriously.

"It's so easy to get wrapped up in the craziness, and when you realise you just like to have fun, it's a good reminder."

Steinfeld turns 20 this December, but while she finds leaving her teen years behind "a little scary", she does recognise her age enables her to connect with fans (she has around 664,000 on Twitter and over four million on Instagram) and keep in touch with people who have the same interests as her.

One subject she's keen to speak about is the recent election of Donald Trump as the next US president.

On the day of the result, she wrote on Twitter: "I choose to be optimistic & hopeful regardless of the election results. Our future depends on us coming together and finding common ground."

She says today: "This was the first election I was eligible to vote for, which made me feel a lot more a part of it than ever before.

"It really is crazy to feel I have a say in our future. And like I said in that (Twitter) post, regardless of what's happened, I choose to be hopeful and optimistic."

Of her generation, she notes: "I feel it's a time when we are coming together and gaining the strength to create our own future."

So a political voice of reason, musical artist and actor, is there anything else Steinfeld fancies lending her hand to?

"There's always something," she quips with an exuberant glint.

"But right now, I'm excited about the movie coming out, more music is on its way and new movies in the works, so I'll stick with what I've got on my plate."

The Edge Of Seventeen is in cinemas now

Belfast Telegraph

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