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Ender’s Game – Hailee Steinfeld interview

Ender's Game

Interview by Rob Carnevale

HAILEE Stainfeld talks about the physical challenge of making Ender’s Game and why she and co-star Asa Butterfield often got the giggles.

She also reflects on her amazing career to date, including how nervous she was to be directed by Tommy Lee Jones and why Meryl Streep coming to a film set to meet her blew her mind.

Q. We’re all excited about what you’ve got coming up… Are you unable still to process all of it?
Hailee Steinfeld: Oh yeah, I still have a hard time. I’ve had some extremely incredible experiences that I’m still pinching myself over. It is definitely hard to process but it’s exciting that they’re all starting to come out. It has felt like I’ve been away for a while, so that’s exciting for everyone to see them.

Q. Have there been any particularly tough shoots?
Hailee Steinfeld: I’ve definitely had some tough experiences since True Grit. I’d say everything that I’ve done has had some sort of challenge that I’ve had to overcome. But it’s the most satisfying feeling once you have and that’s what I love about doing this, sort of signing on to it knowing that it’s going to be challenging.

Q. Was one of the challenges of this one that you were surrounded by men everywhere?
Hailee Steinfeld: [Laughs] No, I had so much fun. It was the most physical preparation I’ve ever done for a role. So, that for me was a really exciting process, sort of really being able to immerse myself in this whole world and devoting so much of my time to training and to learning all of these military techniques. There was so much. It was a huge learning experience for me.

Q. So, it wasn’t just fart jokes…
Hailee Steinfeld: No, I was able to fit right in with all of them, which was a fun thing for me to try and do. They were all so great with me but with my character in the film, you know, that’s kind of what she does, is sort of works to maintain the respect from her peers and works to keep up with them.

Q. Can you talk a little bit more about your preparation?
Hailee Steinfeld: We had a few weeks. We shot the film in New Orleans and we shot about three and a half months. Including the few weeks of preparation it entailed military boot camp, where we had to learn how to salute, how to march, different cadences… pretty much everything that you’d learn in a military camp. Other than that, we had a lot of wire work, a lot of regular conditioning just for strengthening ourselves for the wire work. It was kind of a never ending process from the preparation to the end of filming because it was constant the whole time.

Q. It must be somewhat bizarre talking to nothing or green screens? Did you ever get a fit of the giggles?
Hailee Steinfeld: Oh man, not necessarily talking to nothing. That was a huge challenge for me having come off the two period pieces where you’re sort of not taught, but you learn to use everything that is around you and take advantage of it, because it’s so specific due to the time. So, going from that to a green screen where you have nothing around you except your cast mates and your imagination was definitely a challenge. I think the giggles would come out when we were hanging up on the wires for a little too long. Then they would start to kick in. Asa [Butterfield] and I would have moments like that all the time… every day we’d hit that point where we were just so tired and so delirious that anything we’d say we’d crack up at. We still do it!

Q. What do you find more intimidating, sharing a scene with someone like Harrison Ford or being directed by Tommy Lee Jones [on The Homesman]?
Hailee Steinfeld: Oh man! I’d say they’re both equally as intimidating. When I was working with Tommy Lee Jones, I was not only being directed by him but my scenes were with him, so that… I’ve never been that nervous in my life. That whole experience… I remember one of the scenes that I had with him was a very short scene and it required me to walk out of a door and sit on a bench next to him. The first take we did, my heart was pounding and I was inside this house. He was already sitting on the bench. I had to come out and sit on the bench next to him. And before they call action I’m just in that house thinking: “Oh my God, I just hope this goes well! Please, please, please let it go well!” So, he calls “action” and I go out, and I take a beat at the front door before I go and sit next to him, and I go and sit next to him, and before anything happens he looks at me and he goes: “Cut! Let’s do it again.” And I’m like: “No! What did I do?” Did I not walk right? What did I do? And he goes: “Let’s do that again, just don’t wait at the door.” And I’m like “yes sir”! So, that was a weird thing being in the scene with him and having me direct me was… I’ve never worked with someone like that before. So, he was very intimidating but he ended up being very cool.

Q. Do you have a trick for getting over being star-struck?
Hailee Steinfeld: Well, that right there was just a combination of being star-struck and incredibly nervous. I think that it’s helpful to sort of use that in some way and put it into whatever you’re doing. That energy is there for a reason and I think it can be used.

Q. But do you ever get back to the hotel room or home and think, ‘I’ve just been working with Meryl Streep’!
Hailee Stainfeld: Oh my gosh, yes! In fact, after that experience, I was working with Tommy Lee and Meryl Streep came to the set that day just to say ‘hello’. I went back after that and, literally, I don’t think I’ve stopped saying that that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced in my entire life! That whole day… I literally went from being a nervous wreck to wanting to go home and never wanting to do this again, to then wanting to do it for the rest of my life because these people inspire me. So many things happened in that one day and in those couple of hours that totally made me have those moments.

Q. How do you keep a level head? What is your normality?
Hailee Steinfeld: I guess for me, and this could be the reason that I stay grounded, there’s really no specific balance between the two. There’s no normal and not normal. I’m very aware of these incredibly crazy and amazing experiences that I’ve been able to experience and these opportunities that I’ve been given. But I leave here tomorrow and I go back home to my family and do the dishes that are in the sink that need to be cleaned. So, I don’t say that there’s any sort of difference. I have a great support system and my family is very supportive. I look to them at all times.

Q. I’m trying to imagine you doing the washing up…
Hailee Steinfeld: It happens all the time [laughs]!

Q. What does your family think of your phenomenal success?
Hailee Steinfeld: I owe a lot of it to my family who have been there with me every step of the way. Every decision I make they’re very involved in and I think that has a lot to do with it.

Read our review of Ender’s Game

Read our interview with Asa Butterfield

Read our interview with Sir Ben Kingsley