Interview: Hailee Steinfeld for Edge of Seventeen

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There are few actresses that have the skills to be nominated for an Oscar, let alone get a nomination in their early teens. At such a young age, Hailee Steinfeld has already had a varied and storied career, anything from playing a one-armed western traveler to a dystopian sci-fi warrior. This year we saw her graduate into college and her display her vocals in Pitch Perfect 2, which also started off her already highly successful music career. If you haven’t seen the videos for “Rock Bottom” or “Love Yourself” yet, definitely get out from the rock you’ve been living under and check them out. You’re welcome.

Just when we thought Hailee Steinfeld was done with her high school days, she surprises us one last time with her definitive take on the most authentic film about being a teenager that has come out in the last decade. I talk with Hailee Steinfeld about her high school experience, advice to her younger self, the importance of consent and more.

Knowing what you know now, what kind of advice would you give to your younger high school self?

I would stand far enough away so that I wouldn’t slap myself, but I would say that everything is going to be fine. It’s crazy that when you’re in a moment, it’s the last thing you want to hear. Even now, I have moments where I’ll go to my mom and I’ll tell her it’s the end of the world and I don’t know what to do and she’ll say, “Hailee, relax.” Then I’m like, “No! I’m not going to relax!” Its those things that I feel like we never want to hear, but need to hear. I think going back and telling myself that it’s only a matter of time before you realize this is a moment in time.


How did your high school experience compare to that of your character?

I was in school up to about 6th grade and then I was home schooled, so I didn’t get the quintessential high school experience. My parents pulled me out of school and that was because of social issues. It gives me anxiety sitting in a classroom. When I made this movie, we were obviously in a real high school that was in session. We stole their school on a break, but there was a time when the bell would ring and there were kids in the school. I literally can’t see in front of me and I can’t breathe. I truly believe that being in a classroom is not for everybody.

One of the most powerful and relevant topics in the film was the topic of consent, especially in that car scene with your character and Nick. How tough was that scene for you personally?

Actually, I think I realized it more later. When I watched the movie, I was with my cousin who is a similar age to me and she was hitting me the whole time that scene came on saying, “Dude, that is so real! That is so on point with how that sort of thing happens.” Boys and girls, men and women talk themselves into certain situations and I think a lot of the times it’s sort of misrepresented with how that happens from a female’s perspective. It’s always like, “Oh, well it’s all on her and she wanted this and she wanted that.” With Nadine, it’s all about wanting to feel loved and obviously there’s that subject that she’s curious about and wants to explore, but more than that, she wants a conversation with somebody and she wants to love someone else, she wants to be loved. She’s looking for just that. Whether that means physically or verbally or whatever, that’s what she’s looking for. Filming that scene obviously was difficult but it was nice knowing that this is what it is really like and that it isn’t misconstrued in the film.

The film was about all the bonds you created. My favorite was the one your character had with Woody Harrelson’s. I love the chemistry between you both. How was is working with Woody? 

Oh my god, it was so much fun. I will always remember working with that guy. He is just amazing. One thing I absolutely loved is that we developed such a personal banter on our own that on-screen it just came through. [Writer/Director] Kelly [Fremon Craig] would just let the camera roll forever and we would just go on a tangent and it would either be amazing and everyone would have to try their hardest to hold back laughter or it would be absolutely horrible and we would just try to bring it back home because it was just not going anywhere. We had a great time together.

So we should expect a blooper reel?

I hope so! I’ve sent multiple emails wanting a blooper reel for myself.

Jon would say that as a writer, he is a self-proclaimed film snob and a pop culture junkie. Always gives his honest, critical, and maybe a little bit snarky opinion on everything. He's very detail oriented and loves anything involving creativity and innovation. You're better off asking him who his favorite director is rather than his favorite film. So beware and get ready to be entertained. You can contact him at jon@theyoungfolks.com or follow him on twitter @DystopianHero. (Also, he doesn't always refer to himself in the third person, but sometimes he just has to).