Hailee Steinfeld Reflects on Making ‘True Grit’ and Why No Oscar Talk on Set Was Key

     July 9, 2020

Hailee Steinfeld has accomplished quite a bit since scoring an Oscar nomination for her very first feature film. During an upcoming episode of Collider Connected, Steinfeld looked back on the making of True Grit and, given how she described her time working on that project, it seems as thought the experience made an indelible impression on her – for the better.

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, the 2010 release is an adaptation of the Charles Portis novel and features Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, a teenager who hires a lawman (Jeff Bridges) to track down the outlaw (Josh Brolin) who killed her father. Not only did True Grit put Steinfeld, a total newcomer at the time, on set with icons like the Coen brothers, Bridges, Brolin, executive producer Steven Spielberg, Matt Damon and then some, but then once the film hit theaters, it was swept up in the awards season whirlwind. Talk about a wild ride for your very first feature!

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Image via Paramount Pictures

It’s crazy to think that that was 10 years ago now and Steinfeld has gone on to star in a slew of other films, launch a successful music career and, most recently, serve as the executive producer on the dazzling Apple TV+ series, Dickinson. During our chat, Steinfeld took a moment to look back on True Grit and discuss what it was about that production that now makes her thankful that her first big Hollywood gig was on that set with those people:

“Everything about it. I can’t even begin to tell you. It’s so wild that that was my first legitimate experience because it was all-around, I mean, I want to say, it was so wonderful, it was so seamless and so fun. I mean, it was a bunch of people who really cared and were so equally as passionate about one thing and one thing only, and that was the art and making this the best it could be and, you know, going home to their families every night and coming back to work, and having the most fun but taking it seriously enough. It was just an amazing dynamic. The tone and the vibe was always just so positive and calm, and just a wonderful work environment to be in. I realize how lucky – it’s been 10 years and I’ve been on quite a few sets since then that are not necessarily like that and it’s really a blessing when you get an amazing group of people like that and it just runs seamlessly.”

Now, as someone who’s often serving as a leader on set by being high up on the call sheet or serving as an executive producer, is Steinfeld taking any of the lessons learned on True Grit and applying them to these other projects?

“100%. I definitely do feel like with every job I do, there is some point that I feel – whether it’s something I’m doing, something I’m feeling, something I’m thinking, the way something is going down – True Grit pops back into my mind and there’s always a moment from that that I feel either influenced the way I am now or how I handle certain situations. I do feel like I constantly refer back to that experience and try and pull on whatever it was that I learned and held onto because it was great.”

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Image via Summit Entertainment

Later on in the conversation we spoke a bit about Ender’s Game, and dealing with the disappointment of starring in a film that had major franchise aspirations that didn’t pan out. True Grit came to mind again when discussing managing expectations:

“You know, it’s always so weird when you hear that it’s gonna be something, it’s gonna be big, it’s gonna be here, it’s gonna go there, it’s gonna be all these things. And then when it’s not that, you feel like you have failed. Here’s the thing I guess I’ve kinda learned or picked up on when making True Grit; we shot that film and it came out, I wanna say the same year. It was a very quick turnaround regardless of what it was, and it obviously ran the awards circuit and all of that. And not once during the making of that film was anything said about awards or a wide release or all of these terms that are thrown around as far as, ‘this thing’s gonna be huge,’ you know? Maybe there was and I just wasn’t aware of it. Basically what I’m getting at is, for me, of course you always hope that it’s gonna be something earth shattering and unbelievable and a moment of history. It’s not always about that. It’s never really been about that for me. I feel very lucky that I do feel like the projects I have done, the majority of them, have been seen by the right people and I just feel very fortune for that.”

Steinfeld then reiterated what’s most important to her while making shows and films, and it’s not the stardom that comes with delivering hits:

“I remember when I did True Grit, everybody told me, ‘Your life’s about to change. You’re not gonna be able to walk outside!’ All this shit, and I was just like, ‘None of that, none of that, none of that.’ You do the work because you love it and whoever sees it, sees it.”

Perhaps some of Steinfeld’s releases have been bigger hits than others, but she does have a resume that’s absolutely overflowing with films that have amassed very dedicated fan bases and we discussed a whole bunch of them during her full episode of Collider Connected. Keep an eye out for that video to hear more about her journey from True Grit to the Pitch Perfect franchise to Dickinson, and then some!

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